represents more than 2,000 members
at 17 different seniors' care sites in Calgary and surrounding areas,
each with its own bargaining unit. The sites include all forms of
seniors' congregate living in Alberta, from long-term care homes and
designated assisted-living to lodges and retirement homes.
"The biggest issues within our bargaining units are staffing
and paid sick time. A lot of our bargaining units are still
short-staffed. The workers are overworked, they often don't take their
breaks, they do not get adequate vacation time, and time to relax and
not concentrate on work. This is especially true during outbreaks. New
not staying around long because of the work load, and the additional
work on top of regular duties, for example continuous mandated cleaning
that falls not only on housekeeping but also health care aides.
Sick time is another major problem. Many workers do have sick
in our collective agreements, but many have exhausted their sick time
because of outbreaks and having to isolate. In some cases they are paid
when they are isolating, but in other cases they are not. Rapid testing
has been introduced in a lot of long-term care and retirement
homes. When a worker tests positive in a rapid test and then it turns
out to be a false positive, they may not be paid for the days at home
waiting for the second test. Some employers have agreed to pay for this
time on a case by case basis, but others have not.
employers have attendance management programs where workers can
be given written warnings for taking above average time off, so our
members are feeling they have to go to work, to show that they tried.
So they face loss of income and possible reprimand for calling in sick
while public health guidelines say stay home if you feel
We are in negotiations with many of our
bargaining units right now,
and we are pushing for paid sick leave and have achieved some increases
in sick leave.
Another thing that has had a big
impact is the single site staffing
orders which have negatively affected as many as 20 per cent of our
members, resulting in lost income. At the beginning of the pandemic,
they received top-up hours but these were never guaranteed and provided
only if additional hours are available. It has been more than a year
now and the concerns about the single staff order remain and haven't
single site has so many flaws, and the attempts to correct it went
nowhere despite all our efforts. The policy was also flawed in
containing the spread of COVID-19 from one site to another because it
does not cover all workplaces. It only applies to sites with long-term
care or designated supportive living beds. So you can't work in two
long-term care homes, but anyone working in a hospital, retirement
residence or lodge setting can also work in long-term care or
designated supportive living.
had to choose an employer
were given priority for additional hours, but they were not guaranteed.
Some of our members worked two full-time jobs and went down to one, or
lost all their hours in excess of one full-time equivalency (FTE). We
need adequate pay now and in the future so workers do not have to work
multiple jobs just to make ends meet.
As far as PPE
is concerned, since last summer most of our demands have been met; we
were very active in advocating on that. There could be a
better supply of N95 masks, but everyone who is in direct care with
COVID-19-positive patients is getting N95 masks.
vaccine has been offered to most of our members by now,
government has not stepped in to provide information about vaccines to
those who have concerns, for example whether vaccine is safe for women
who are pregnant or trying to get pregnant. Workers are left to search
for information themselves. The government needs
to step up and clearly communicate to health care workers and address
What do we need going forward? Some
of the wages are really low in
the private system, and for the public system the government is
demanding wage cuts. If workers had higher FTEs, more full-time work,
paid sick leave for all, and better wages it would be a huge
improvement for our members and the residents they care for.
This article was published in
April 26, 2021 - No.