In the News
Alberta Workers Oppose Government Violation of Rights
Untenable Emergency Order Reveals
The Chief Medical Officer of Health (CMOH) issued CMOH Order 01-2022 COVID-19 Response on January 3, 2022. The order reduces the isolation period for fully vaccinated individuals and outlines the Critical Worker Exception. A second order, CMOH Order 02-2022 was issued January 10, 2022, making further revisions to the isolation provisions. The changes to when and for how long people have to isolate made in just one week confirm the deep concerns of health care workers and experts in the field of infectious diseases that there is no scientific basis for the orders.
Order 01-2022 required fully vaccinated people who test positive for COVID-19 who are asymptomatic or whose symptoms have “improved” to isolate for five days instead of 10. The first order considered symptoms “resolved” following 24 hours with no fever and no fever-reducing medications, and an improvement, not an absence, of symptoms. The second order backs off this untenable provision and changes the word “improved” to “resolved.” However, the second order no longer requires a symptomatic person to isolate for five days if they have one negative PCR test or two negative rapid tests at least 24 hours apart and symptoms have resolved. Infectious disease specialists emphasize that there is no evidence that Omicron is no longer infectious after five days. A further concern is that rapid tests are known to be much less reliable than PCR tests in identifying a COVID-19 infection.
Even more alarming is the “Critical Worker Exception” which permits an employer to require workers who are positive for COVID-19 and asymptomatic or “mildly symptomatic” to come to work if the “owner or operator of a business, sector or service determines that certain workers are critical to continued safe operations and that a substantive disruption of services would be harmful to the public.”
Both orders state repeatedly that employers must follow the directives “where possible.” They do not have to apply for exemptions. It is the employer’s call when and how the orders are applied, and there is no review process. In other words it is a Wild West scenario where an emergency order gives employers a free hand to order workers to come to work even if they are positive for COVID-19. Order 02-2022 adds that workers must follow the plan the employer establishes. This is a further assault on the workers who now must not just come to work when ordered, but follow the employer’s plan even if it is dangerous and ill-advised. The Orders also gives the CMOH authority to exempt any person or class of persons from the order.
This is a grave violation of workers’ rights, which leaves it up to employers to decide which Albertans infected with COVID-19 should go to work. Employers are required only to have a plan “to mitigate the risk of the spread of infection from critical workers who would otherwise be required to remain in isolation pursuant to this Order.”
While officially an order issued by the CMOH, who by law has such authority, the CMOH has clearly stated that her role is only to “give advice.”
Orders such as the January 3 and January 10 CHOH Orders are intended to silence workers and stifle their all-important initiative. The experience of workers in Alberta and across the country shows that without a doubt, they are the essential factor and that their security lies in the fight to defend the rights of all. Workers have continued to produce goods and services under extremely difficult conditions, and they have continued to act to protect the health and safety of the people even at the cost of their own. Their fight for safe workplaces is critical in protecting their communities.
(Workers’ Forum, posted January 21, 2022)