Now relaunch strategy puts even more vulnerable workers at risk
MEDIA RELEASE (MAY 21)
EDMONTON - As a number of hair salons, art galleries and restaurants start to open their doors, anti-privatization committee members of Alberta’s largest union are asking Premier Kenney how he can give the green light to open non-essential businesses when Alberta still does not have industry-specific pandemic guidelines for most essential services.
“The meat-packing industry, postal facilities, online retail warehouses: it's a similar story. The government isn’t intervening fast enough and the coronavirus continues to tear through workplaces,” said Chair of the committee and AUPE Vice-President Kevin Barry.
“Now, six days into the re-launch and the UCP already lifting requirements for businesses to open? That’s just reckless.”
On May 19, Dr. Hinshaw announced businesses listed in stage 1 of the relaunch strategy are no longer required to fill out the Relaunch Plan Template, in which they would record what they’re doing to mitigate the risk of an outbreak. The move has left Albertans wondering how employers will be held accountable for the health and safety of staff and the public.
In High River, lax pandemic prevention measures led to the country’s largest outbreak, where the staff union had called on the employer, Cargill, to shut down operations for over a week before they closed shop. The government allowed the company to maintain operations and cases on the worksite soared, exposing the whole community.
“If this is how the UCP treat workers they call essential, how are they going to treat everyone else?” says Barry, “Corporations will always put their profits before the wellbeing of Albertans. Give them an inch, even in a pandemic, and they’ll take a mile to make a buck off the backs of workers.”
While pandemic guidelines have been published for some non-essential businesses, AUPE’s anti-privatization committee fears this won’t be enough
“We’re talking about some of the most unprotected workers. Most of the Albertans in these public-facing jobs don’t have union representation; they start at minimum wage; and the only protections they have are the province’s regressive employment standards,” Barry adds.
“Most don’t even get paid sick leave. You want a recipe for disaster: make a low-paid employee choose between going to work with COVID symptoms and missing a shift.”
“You want a solution: Don’t hand off the reins to employers.”
“Before Premier Kenney makes another underpaid worker pay the price for another money-maker’s decisions, he needs to deal with the disaster at hand.”
Celia Shea, AUPE Communications, 780-720-8122