Members are run ragged and suffering from burnout
EDMONTON - The Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE) is joining the chorus of voices calling on the Alberta government to impose stricter measures as COVID-19 case numbers continue to climb.
“Our members are on the edge,” says AUPE Vice President Susan Slade. “Whether they work in health care or corrections, they go to work each day in dangerous conditions, putting themselves and their families at risk. When they’re told to isolate, they isolate. When they’re ordered to do overtime, they do overtime. Nine months of this under a government that valued their contributions would have been difficult enough. Nine months of this under a government that tells them every day that they’re overpaid and not willing to do their part has been horrendous. I’ve never seen our members so demoralized.” With outbreaks declared at 38 sites where AUPE members work, Slade says the union is growing increasingly concerned about their health and safety and about the ability of the system to handle the surge in case numbers.
“We have correctional officers who are basically prisoners now - under public health order allowed only to go home and to work. We have workers in long-term and continuing-care homes who are traumatized at the number of deaths they have witnessed among people they care about very deeply. We have staff in hospitals run off their feet and forced into overtime because so many of their colleagues are off sick or on forced isolation. The system was strained before the pandemic. As cases peak, I’m afraid it’s going to collapse,” Slade says.
AUPE, along with the United Nurses of Alberta and the Health Sciences Association of Alberta, joined over 430 physicians as signatories to a letter released today calling on the government to impose stricter measures to get case numbers under control. Earlier this week, several dozen physicians wrote an open letter to Premier Jason Kenney, seeking a temporary shutdown to bring case counts under control.
“Nobody wants to see a full lockdown,” says Slade. “But that’s exactly where we’re heading if the government doesn’t act now. Two weeks from now, when the system buckles under the strain, will be too late.”
AUPE would also like to know what the province did with millions of dollars it received from the federal government under the Essential Worker initiative. Since the Prime Minister announced the initiative in May, Alberta has refused to say how much of the $3 billion in federal funds it has received and what it’s doing with the money. In mid-September, a government spokesperson said it was working on a second proposal after the federal government rejected the first. Albertans have heard nothing about it since.
“That money was intended to bolster the front lines and would go a long way to address the staff shortages we’re seeing across the public service right now,” notes Slade. “Workers in health, corrections and social services in British Columbia, Ontario and Manitoba all received top ups to their wages. In Alberta, we have no idea what the government did with that money. If they’re saving it for a rainy day, we’d like to point out to them that we’re currently in a downpour and there’s a tsunami right around the corner.”
Later today, AUPE will reveal evidence that shows the continuing-care system is in a staffing crisis and that unpublicized actions being taken by the government are putting residents and workers at risk.
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AUPE Vice President Susan Slade is available for interviews.
Please contact Mimi Williams, AUPE Communications Officer 780-930-3416