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Frontline workers say Leg closure without added protection for Alberta's workforce is hypocritical

(PHOTO: Tom Ross, 660 NEWS)

EDMONTON – As the Alberta Legislature closes over concerns of COVID-19 spread, some people working in other essential industries are voicing frustration that their safety is not being taken as seriously as that of MLAs.

Canadian Union of Public Employees’ (CUPE) Alberta division says there’s a clear double standard.

READ MORE: Alberta suspends legislature for two weeks as COVID-19 cases soar to record levels

“We’ve been calling for increased safety measures across the public service–schools, healthcare centres, social services, municipalities–to make sure that we slow down the rate of COVID. Essentially, the premier has been not helping people at all. He’s had some statements saying people to be more careful but he hasn’t used the power of his office and the power of his government to make things safer,” said President Rory Gill.

“But when we see case rates rising and his personal health is in danger then they can shut down the legislature.”

Gill says Premier Jason Kenney is too focused on appeasing his followers to enact more safety measures.

He adds Kenney and his staff have paid sick days, but many people who are working in essential services do not.

“Fifty-eight per cent of [Canadian] workers don’t have access to paid sick days and have to make the decision of staying home and trying to get healthy or being able to keep the lights on and pay rent and that’s a terrible decision.”

He renewed calls for everyone to have paid sick leave–a call that Canada has heard all through the pandemic. He adds this government has done a terrible job of protecting Albertans during the pandemic.

Teachers angered with Leg closure

The province’s teachers are among those feeling frustrated with the closure of the legislature.

Alberta Teachers’ Associaton President Jason Schilling calls the closure hypocritical, as hundreds of educators continually go into schools day in and day out.

“To see the legislature close, citing the rising cases of COVID, but teachers are going back into their buildings… unvaccinated–or not even a priority for vaccination–has really upset several teachers in the province.”

He says teachers and other school support staff have not been made a priority in the vaccination rollout and yet they work directly with kids, who are largely ineligible for the vaccine.

“We have to make sure we’re providing [teachers] a place that is as safe as possible,” he said.

“There are several things that government could be doing to make sure schools are safer–vaccinating staff, making sure that the health protocols in place are appropriate or if they need to be strengthened, let’s look at that..”

He adds teachers need to be able to take a sick day, but right now there are not enough substitute teachers to cover those gaps.

Schilling adds principals across Alberta are reporting that AHS isn’t keeping up with contact tracing in schools, leaving teachers and principals to do their own.

-with files from Joey Chini