New system to come into effect no later than April 23
The Alberta government, employers and AUPE are still working out how new rules limiting continuing-care workers to a single site will be implemented, even though the new system has to be in effect by April 23 at the latest.
On April 10, Alberta’s Chief Medical officer Dr. Deena Hinshaw announced workers would be limited to one site to reduce the risk of COVID-19 spreading. She said she hoped to have more details the next day.
AUPE did not receive Government Orders explaining the changes until April 13. When they did arrive, they left many questions unanswered. This has been frustrating for members, who are dealing not only with the stress of working during a pandemic, but not knowing where they’ll be working or how many hours they’ll be working in the coming weeks.
AUPE is working to get answers from the 230 continuing-care sites where we represent employees and from senior levels of government. While we acknowledge that Alberta has never faced a crisis like this, we must protect the front-line workers who are going to get us through this. Here’s a breakdown of what that means and what we’re still waiting to know from government.
When does the single-site rule come into effect?
Dr. Hinshaw said the new rule should begin to be implemented on Thursday, April 16, and be in place no later than Thursday, April 23. Why is it so complicated?
Many employers in continuing care tend not to offer full-time work. It’s common for workers to have multiple jobs at multiple sites. They do this in order to earn enough money to feed and shelter their families.
Without an existing provincewide system to managing continuing care, it’s hard to handle the complex staffing needs of the current pandemic. Alberta has to navigate a patchwork of public and private operators, each with their own agenda.
What is being done to make sure these changes are fair to workers and their health?
AUPE is now talking to employers at the 230 continuing-care sites where our member work to find out how the Alberta government’s new rules will be implemented. If your employer is telling you things that cause you concern, please contact the AUPE Member Resource Centre at 1-800-232-7284 or online here.
What do we know so far?
We have been given Government Orders from the Department of Labour and Immigration and the Department of Health. They lay out some of the ways the new single-site employment rule is supposed to work.
What is clear is that if you have to give up a job or jobs at other worksites to stick to working at only one site, you will not lose those jobs you give up. You will be given a Leave of Absence from those jobs until after the pandemic has passed.
This protection is retroactive, meaning that if you have already chosen to give up a job or jobs, those jobs should be held for you until after the pandemic.
Who decides where I work?
The Government Order says that the employer decides at which sites an employee works. But, it’s not clear which employer gets to decide when a worker has more than one employer.
The first factor used to determine the site of employment is said to be the worker’s preference. The second factor listed is the employer’s need. The third factor is the need to protect public health.
What is happening in B.C.?
The B.C. government introduced a similar rule, limiting workers to a single site in continuing care, on April 1. The B.C. government created a central staffing agency under the Ministry of Health and the provincial health officer. This centralized approach seems to be better equipped to handle the complex staffing needs.
Will I get the same hours as I was working at multiple jobs?
If you have to give up a second or third job and are therefore would be working fewer hours than before, the employer you stay with will try to offer more hours up to a full-time-equivalent (FTE) job.
If that still doesn’t bring you up to the hours you were working at multiple jobs, the employer must offer you overtime if it’s available on a priority basis to all other employees whose total hours are not reduced as a result of compliance with the order.
What do we want to see?
We’d like to see a guarantee that no worker will suffer a loss of income as a result of the single-site employment rule.
We’d also like to see all workers paid at the same rate, rather than have workers doing the same job for different wages. That’s unfair.
We want Alberta to follow the B.C. model of paying all continuing-care workers at the rate paid to unionized workers in the public sector. Employers in private for-profit and not-for-profit facilities often pay less and offer inferior benefits.
We also want all members risking their lives and their health during this pandemic to get extra pay for the extraordinary hazards they are facing every day, both to their physical and mental health.
What other questions need to be answered?
We have many questions for employers and government. We are working hard to get answers. These questions include:
- Can workers be assigned to a worksite at which they do not currently work?
- Can members be assigned to a worksite that isn’t covered by an AUPE collective bargaining agreement?
- Can workers say no to assignments?
Stay tuned to the website for updates in the coming days.
Please contact us
You are the front lines of this pandemic and your well-being is important. Please contact us if you have other questions or concerns as this new rule is implemented. We need to hear from you what is happening so we can try to address your concerns.
Call us at the Member Resource Centre at 1-800-232-7284 or online here.