Notley calls for Alberta to offer ten days of paid work leave to stop workplace spread of COVID-19

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The opposition NDP is calling for the Alberta government to provide ten days of paid leave for isolating workers to curb workplace spread of COVID-19.

Leader Rachel Notley said Monday the Alberta government should cover employers sending the wage support directly to workers as part of their paycheques, leaving the details of how the province might be reimbursed through the federal government’s recovery sickness benefit until later.

Notley said with variants of concern spreading faster in the workplace, the support would help get transmission rates down and bring the pandemic and public health restrictions to an end faster.

“What we need to do is bring (transmission) down and we can’t do that if people go to work with symptoms, or if they go to work while they’re waiting five days to get a test, or if they go to work because they can’t afford to stay home and not get paid while isolating,” said Notley.


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“There’s a good reason to do it, and it’s long overdue,” said Notley, calling on the government to work again with the opposition as it did in passing legislation last week to guarantee three hours of paid sick leave to get workers vaccinated.

Notley also encouraged the government to consult with employers to reach a cost sharing agreement that recognizes that some large employers have increased their profits throughout the pandemic, while many small businesses struggle to survive.

The call comes as paid sick leave makes headlines across the country, especially in Ontario. Premier Doug Ford refused to implement paid sick leave until the public outcry prompted a pledge last week that a provincial program would fill in the gaps left by the federal sick pay program.

As of Sunday, Alberta’s per capita rate of active COVID-19 cases, at 455 per 100,000, far exceeds Ontario’s, which is at 279 per 100,000 people. Ontario’s COVID-19 Science Advisory Table has called for paid sick leave to curb workplace spread.

The federal program offers $450 after taxes per week for up to a maximum of four weeks if they tested positive or are self-isolating due to COVID-19.

Notley pointed out that is less than a full-time minimum wage paycheque in Alberta, and it can take weeks to get the cash to eligible workers.

“Many families simply cannot afford to wait weeks without an income while they try to navigate the federal government’s application process,” said Notley.


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Notley said the wages would be far less than the cost of occupied ICU beds and continued damage to the economy.

“We must weigh the cost of this program against the cost of thousands more Albertans falling sick, hundreds more in the hospital and ICU and the broader economic damage that occurs as a result of a longer third wave,” said Notley.

Beginning March last year, all Albertan employees who are in quarantine due to COVID-19 are eligible for 14 days of unpaid, job-protected leave.

Online learning request turned down

Meanwhile, the Black Gold School Division said in a Sunday news release it had requested permission from the Education Ministry to move all of its Grade 7 to 12 students to online learning last week, citing a shortage of substitute teachers amid a rise in COVID-19 case numbers.

The province approved only one school, Thorsby Junior-Senior High School, for the shift beginning Monday until May 7.

Superintendent of Schools Bill Romanchuk said the division’s decision was not made lightly.

“However, with so many students and staff in quarantine or in isolation, a chronic shortage of substitute teachers, and spiking COVID cases in our communities, we believe this measure is in the best interest of both students and staff and to ensure continuity of learning,” he said in the release.

The division, south of Edmonton, counts approximately 11,500 students enrolled in 32 schools.

The move comes after Edmonton Public Schools and Edmonton Catholic Schools moved Grade 7 to 12 students to online learning last week, and both Fort McMurray Public and Catholic school divisions moved all grades to online learning Monday.

More to come…


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