Edmonton schools will have fewer staff than before the pandemic – and it’s Kenney’s fault

For immediate release

EDMONTON – The provincial president of the union representing non-teaching staff at Edmonton Public Schools says there will be fewer support staff in September than there were in September 2019, before the pandemic.

When asked why, CUPE Alberta President Rory Gill replied, “Two words. Jason Kenney.”

Gill says underfunding and cuts done under the cover of the pandemic are catching up with the school district.

“In April of 2020, the UCP fired educational assistants by Twitter,” said Gill.  “When schools resumed in-class learning, 181 staff never returned. This September, additional staff may be missing as well.”

Gill said the blame lies not with the school district, which has used reserve funding to get through the pandemic, but with the Kenney government’s funding of education.

“Every time he thinks parents aren’t looking, Jason Kenney cuts a little more from public education, and then lies about it and tries to confuse the issue,” said Gill. “In this one district alone, there are hundreds of special needs kids who will be forced to make do with fewer educational assistants in September.”

“It’s frankly sickening what Kenney has done to special needs kids in Alberta,” said Gill. “Kenney promised no front-line cuts. He’s broken that promise and some of the most vulnerable, voiceless students are the ones paying the price.”


Union drive hits hurdles as Alpha House fights dirty

For immediate release

Union drive hits hurdles as Alpha House fights dirty
CUPE accuses social service provider of firing key organizer, intimidating staff

CALGARY – An attempt to unionize about 300 employees of Alpha House Society is turning ugly after the agency fired a key union organizer and interfered in attempts to organize a union.

The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) has filed an unfair labour practices complaint with the Alberta Labour Board alleging the agency threatened and intimidated employees after the union filed an application to represent employees.

Alpha house is a not-for-profit society providing addiction and housing services to people in Calgary and Lethbridge. A Labour Board certified vote determining the fate of the union drive wraps up this week.

CUPE Alberta President Rory Gill says that within two days of CUPE’s application with the board, Alpha House fired a key union organizer, handed out large bonuses to employees, and sent memos to employees threatening wages and working conditions if the union succeeds.

The terminated union organizer had received a glowing performance review in December and had no issues brought to his attention since then.

“This is union busting, and Alpha House should be ashamed of itself,” said CUPE Alberta President Rory Gill. “Instead of firing union organizers without cause and banging out threatening staff memos, the society needs to take a ‘hands-off’ approach to this and leave the decision to unionize where it belongs – in the hands of employees.”

“Employees who work with some of Calgary’s most needy and vulnerable deserve the right to decide their own fate, free of intimidation and bullying.”

CUPE is seeking the reinstatement of the wrongfully dismissed employee and a declaration from the Labour Board declaring that Alpha House violated the law. Gill said he also wants the Society to commit to a neutral stance on the unionization of its employees.


Long-Term Care Facilities -Many unable to meet basic needs of seniors

Media Release
May, 6, 2021

Seniors Care Staff Study Calls for More Time to Care
Report reveals more than 40 per cent of seniors care centres
can’t meet adequate care needs

Edmonton – A new Parkland Institute study, Time to Care: Staffing and Workloads in Alberta’s Long-term Care Facilities, by Parkland research manager Rebecca Graff-McRae, reveals that many seniors continuing care centres are chronically understaffed and unable to meet the basic care needs of seniors.

Parkland Institute researchers collaborated with the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE-AB) to survey more than 350 LTC staff across Alberta in early 2020 and found nearly half of respondents – 43 per cent – didn’t have adequate time to complete required tasks consistently. Only 24 per cent stated they never had essential tasks outstanding at the end of a shift.

“Our study reveals why the coronavirus pandemic became a matter of life and death, as many seniors care facilities that had previously “managed” with inadequate staffing levels were unable to provide even the most basic levels of care for their residents – with tragic consequences,” says report author Rebecca Graff-McRae. “The Alberta government needs to listen to the health providers on the frontlines about the serious implications of lack of care staff if we are going to fix the crisis in seniors care.”

Staff are left with few options: leave important aspects of their job – including care tasks – undone, work through their breaks, or stay late to finish. Seventy per cent of respondents stayed beyond the end of their shift at least occasionally and nearly one quarter – 24 per cent – stayed late either daily or once per week. It is clear from these responses that staying beyond the end of their shift is the norm for many LTC workers.

“Exhausted, rushed and stressed staff cannot provide the level of personal, relational care that residents need and deserve”, said Kelly Spence, CUPE Local 8 site vice-president. “Concerns about adequate staffing to meet the care needs of residents have been raised for decades, but the Government of Alberta has not undertaken any study of staffing levels and working conditions in the LTC sector.”

“For far too long the government has allowed residents and workers to fall through the cracks,” said CUPE Alberta president Rory Gill. “The impact of COVID-19 has made these problems more acute and frankly, more deadly. It’s time the government stepped up and ensured adequate staffing and resources for long-term-care facilities. The workers and residents deserve it.”

When asked whether their facility had adequate staffing to provide quality care for residents, a significant disparity could be seen across ownership/profit categories: 34 per cent of respondents based in for-profit facilities reported they never have adequate staff-to-resident ratios to meet resident needs, compared to just seven per cent for public facilities. Not-for profit facilities fell in the middle at 16 per cent.

“When homes are understaffed, that hurts workers and residents,” said June St. Lewis, an AUPE steward at a continuing care home. “Workers want to be able to provide the highest possible quality of care, but we just don’t have the resources to do so. We end up burnt out, and residents end up with care that doesn’t meet the standards we aim for.”

“When staff in for-profit long-term-care facilities report they are almost five times more likely to never have adequate staff-to-resident ratios to meet care needs, then we know residents in for-profit facilities are more at risk of adverse outcomes,” says Graff-McRae. “With two-thirds of all COVID-19 deaths happening in long-term-care centres in Canada, the fact that for-profit facilities provide fewer hours of direct care per resident per day and are more likely to have fewer staff per resident should be of central concern to the government’s review of seniors care. Unfortunately, the government is moving to protect seniors care corporations against legal liability with Bill 70, rather than address the underlying reasons for the crisis in seniors care.”

“Profit has no place in continuing care,” said Mike Dempsey, vice-president of AUPE. “These facilities should have one purpose — to provide good care for Alberta’s seniors, and create good jobs in the process. Profit-making directly contradicts that goal. The only way to make sure this doesn’t happen again is to bring the entire continuing care system under public control. From there, democratically elected governments can choose to do things like increase staffing levels and implement the standards of care that seniors deserve.”

“Workers are tired of being called heroes while governments ignore our cries to improve standards in continuing care in Alberta,” said St. Lewis. “We want more than words, we want action.”


For more information or to arrange interviews, contact:

Sarah Pratt, communications co-ordinator

Parkland Institute is a non-partisan public policy research institute in the Faculty of Arts at the University of Alberta. “Time to Care” is available for download on Parkland Institute’s website.



Student support workers call on the UCP to recognize them as critical, front-line workers

Student Support Staff at Edmonton Public School District are calling on the government to recognize them as critical workers. Members of CUPE Local 3550 are speaking out after a number of education workers were excluded from the Critical Worker Benefit – a $1200 lump sum payment promised to those who have worked on the front lines during the pandemic.

“It’s a slap in the face,” said CUPE Local 3550 President Jorge Illanes. “Throughout this pandemic we have showed up to work, we have sacrificed our health to ensure that students get the critical supports they need and now the UCP tells us we’re not all critical workers.”

Earlier this year, the UCP government announced a new Critical Worker Benefit to compensate essential workers in a range of public and private sectors, including workers in the Education Sector. However, arbitrary eligibility criteria means only a portion of Student Support Staff are eligible, despite them all working on the front lines.

“It’s offensive,” said Illanes. “The government has bungled this entire program. How can we be working shoulder to shoulder throughout the pandemic, and only a portion of us are recognized as critical workers?”

The limiting criteria for the benefit includes a 300-hour threshold that allowed for the exclusion of precarious workers.  These workers are not offered weekly full-time hours, which in the Education Sector is 7 or less hours per day. Other support staff were indiscriminately deemed as non-student contact classifications and were also excluded.  This was done despite the school board arguing in favour of including them and requesting revisions to the government’s criteria.

“We have to speak up. I’m calling on all of our members, and the public to tell the government that education workers are front line workers and call on them to ensure we all receive the Critical Workers Benefit,” said Illanes.

You can join the fight, and send a letter to the UCP by visiting https://3550.cupe.ca/



CUPE Alberta delivered 30,000 letters to the Legislature today. The letters, written to MLAs from concerned Alberta citizens, call on the UCP government to stop its attack on public health care.

“We are in the midst of a global pandemic. The government should be doing everything it can to protect our healthcare, instead they’ve picked fights with doctors and nurses, and now they want to fire 11,000 healthcare workers. It’s an indefensible plan that is going to have devastating impacts our health care system,” said CUPE Alberta President Rory Gill.

The UCP government announced in October that it would slash 11,000 health care jobs in Alberta in a move that is expected to create chaos in a system already stretched by the impacts of COVID-19. Gill joined NDP Health Critic David Shepherd and Labour Critic Christina Gray, who have been calling on the UCP to walk back their plan to dismantle Alberta’s healthcare system.

“This is not what Jason Kenney promised Albertans in the last election. He promised to protect public health care. We stand with the thirty thousand Albertans who’ve written letters to the UCP, and the thousands more who are calling on this government to do that right thing, cancel this disastrous plan and protect the public health care Albertans rely on,” said NDP Health Critic David Shepherd.

Gray added, “These are the workers who do the housekeeping, prepare food and provide laboratory services. They have risked their lives during an unprecedented health crisis. Then, the moment the pandemic is over, this government plans to hand them pink slips. It’s unconscionable.”

The letters were delivered to Premier Jason Kenney’s office and will be tabled in the Legislature. CUPE President Rory Gill is calling on all Albertans to make their voices heard and send Jason Kenney a message to stop his attack on the public health care system.

For more information visit: https://www.weworkforalberta.ca/protectalbertahealthcare

CUPE 4070 members ratify new contract with WestJet

CUPE members working at WestJet’s mainline have signed off on their first collective bargaining agreement. Members voted over the weekend to ratify the tentative collective agreement reached in February. The five-year agreement includes wage increases, and significant movement towards industry-standard scheduling and pay calculation rules.

“This is the first collective agreement for members, so it’s an incredible milestone and we are thrilled that it was ratified over the weekend,” said CUPE 4070 President Chris Rauenbusch. “Reaching this agreement is a bright spot in what has been a tough year for our members and for the airline sector overall. I’d like to thank both our union and our bargaining committee for working so diligently to find a path forward in a particularly challenging and complicated context.”

CUPE has represented over 3100 cabin crew at WestJet since July 2018. The parties have been engaged in collective bargaining towards a first union contract since April 2019.

CUPE also represents cabin crew at WestJet subsidiaries WestJet Encore and Swoop. Rauenbusch hopes the tentative agreement with the ‘mainline’ will lead to similar agreements across the company.