CUPE members working in long term care (LTC) have felt the burden of COVID-19 as hard or harder than most. Some are going to work every day in dangerous situations, made more stressful by residents who can’t see family and friends. Some have to stay at home due to childcare or health restraints. Nowhere have as many of our members gotten sick than in this sector of our union.
We’ve worked hard to speak out on behalf of our members in long term care and fight for better, safer working conditions. Here are a few of the actions we’ve been taking since COVID-19 arrived in Alberta.
- CUPE Alberta has put out numerous statements, press releases and social media posts demanding the government institute a single site policy for employees in long term care.
- April 10, 2020: sent a detailed, five-page letter to Health Minister Shandro detailing how Alberta can implement a single site policy similar to the way BC had.
- CUPE Alberta met by phone with the labour minister to highlight grave concerns in our LTC sector including the single site issue, personal protective equipment and low wages.
- April 10, 2020: the minister of labour called the CUPE Alberta president to inform us that a ministerial order will be issued requiring a single site mandate for LTC. We assert that wages are still an issue and must be addressed.
- April 16, 2020: CUPE agrees to participate with UNA, HSAA and AUPE in a mediated process with employers to improve the ministerial order and address the wage and staffing issues in long term care. CUPE pushed for the BC model of government take-over of LTC and a common wage grid. All unions agreed but employers balked. CUPE’s representative was Ella Henry, Legal Representative for Alberta.
- April 18, 2020: health ministry refuses to participate in the process and will not work with unions. Announcement of a $2/hour subsidy for HCA’s comes with NO implementation framework AND excludes all other classifications. CUPE protested the health ministry’s incompetence and disregard for residents and staff.
- April 18, 2020: CUPE Alberta organized a car cavalcade to show support for residents and staff at the McKenzie Towne Care Centre.
- April 20 to 28, 2020: CUPE called out the government’s incompetent and chaotic response to the crisis in long term care. Jason Kenney claimed in the Alberta Legislature that calls for single site rules in long term care settings were just ‘what CUPE thinks’ and accused us of politicizing a tragedy.
- April 28 to May 1, 2020: CUPE and the other unions approached the labour minister to make one last attempt to have a fair agreement on LTC, true single site rules and a common wage grid across the province. The unions were united and worked with the mediator to get this message across. No worker should have to work at more than one site, and everyone should be paid a fair wage. The unions also stated that if a common wage grid was not implemented then ALL classifications in long term care should be paid a premium of at least $4 an hour. This continues to be our position.
- The government is, in CUPE’s opinion, deliberately delaying the implementation of wage increases because they are committed to the for-profit model and care only for the companies profiting from the misery of residents and staff.
- CUPE will continue to fight on the legal front and with the public to achieve justice for LTC.
- CUPE National has begun a campaign to bring LTC into the public health care system and be recognized in the Canada Health Act. CUPE Alberta will support this campaign and fight to make LTC public funded, administered and delivered in Alberta.
CUPE Alberta will continue to fight for justice in long term care and advocate for our brave and selfless members in the sector. If members ever need any information on the work CUPE AB Division is doing they can contact me anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org, and I will be happy to answer and address any questions or concerns.
Thank you to all our members in long term care; you represent the very best of CUPE!