Alpha House employees now part of CUPE

Labour board rules on objections, counts votes, employees vote yes

CALGARY – After multiple issues before the labour board, ballots were finally counted today, and 171 Alpha House employees voted 89% in favour of joining the Canadian Union of Public Employees.

“Congratulations to the employees of Alpha House on joining Canada’s largest union,” said CUPE Alberta President Rory Gill.  “You now have the collective strength of over 700,000 CUPE members in your corner.”

Gill said this victory was particularly sweet as there have been numerous difficulties leading to today’s decision. Gill said those issues have been resolved, and he is looking forward to their full participation in CUPE Alberta.

“It’s never easy to form a union at your worksite,” said Gill. “We had some strong disagreements with Alpha House, but those disagreements have been resolved to the satisfaction of the employer, CUPE, and the affected employees.”

“And today, the ballots have been counted and the employees’ voices have been heard.”

Contractors to blame, not city waste collectors, for problems with new trash pick-up

EDMONTON – The President of the union representing city waste collectors is pointing the finger at a third party contractor for the lack of garbage collection at 13,000 Edmonton homes this week.

Many homes in the southwest end of the city did not have waste collected on their scheduled day last week as part of the city’s new cart rollout.

“Some news reports, and some citizens, have been pointing the finger at city workers, but that’s not fair or true,” said CUPE Local 30 President Eric Lewis.

“These carts were not collected because the contractor doesn’t know the work, doesn’t know the routes, and doesn’t know the city,” said Lewis. “If the city kept this work in-house, problems like this wouldn’t happen.”

Lewis said that while the problems with pick up will get sorted out in time, he expects further problems to pop up in the future.

“When you privatize services, you pay less and get shoddy service. Accountability is lowered, and residents end up grumpy and unhappy over and over.”

This year, Canada Day is complicated

Artwork by Nigel Fox

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Canada Day is generally a time for Canadians to enjoy some good weather, a day off, and maybe a fireworks display.

If we’re being honest, most Canadians don’t spend July 1st thinking about our history in any deep way.

We might celebrate our wilderness, our health care system, and some of our more endearing symbols like the beaver or the moose.

But this Canada Day falls days after the grim discovery of a grave site of 761 children at a Saskatchewan residential school, and only weeks after a similar find at a Kamloops location.

Residential schools are places Indigenous children were taken after being forcibly ripped from their homes by Canadian governments. That alone is damaging enough. But now we are confronted with the fact thousands of children never returned home.

This was genocide. It meets the definition we apply to similar events elsewhere, and we have to start using that term.

This is not a problem of the past. This did not happen long ago. The Saskatchewan residential school in question only closed in 1996.

The victims of these schools live with us today. They live with painful memories, and they pass on that trauma to their own children and grandchildren.

We don’t need to forget about the things we like about Canada. But we need to make Canada a better place for everyone. That starts with reconciliation for aboriginal people.

One way you can help is by wearing orange today. Orange shirts have become the symbol of support for the survivors of residential schools. This simple act tells survivors that we see them and are trying to understand their struggle.

This Canada Day, let’s commit to the hard work needed to rebuild the Indigenous communities and lives shattered by residential schools. Let’s make Canada the country we want it to be, the country it should be, for all people living here.

LA/pkcope491

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.”

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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.

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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.”

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For more information or to arrange interviews, contact:

Sarah Pratt, communications co-ordinator
spratt1@ualberta.ca
587.338.0171

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/