WHAT DO CITIZENS in Hong Kong know that we don’t?
The city of untold millions is bracing for a fourth wave of the pandemic. And in Alberta, we’re being told to get ready for the second.
Unlike the first go round, when our provincial government and public sector unions assured Albertans “we’ve got your back,” there’s a sickening feeling that politics as usual has put the boots to that pledge.
For healthcare professionals going to work amidst a bloom of COVID-19 at Calgary’s Foothills Hospital, other Alberta workers on the SARS-CoV-2 front (a lengthy list, including seniors-caregivers, teachers, grocery store clerks, meat-packing assembly line workers and so forth) are also expected to be on the job — pandemic be damned.
And therein lies a ‘wicked problem’.
WHAT WE’VE HEARD
Anecdotal stories shared anonymously by BEYOND POLARITY readers:
“This weekend, I was talking with a nurse who had been ordered into self-isolation as a result of the outbreak of COVID-19 at the Foothills hospital. I was absolutely shocked to learn that she had been required by AHS [Alberta Health Services] to use her personal sick days to cover her salary during the 14-day isolation period. As a result, she has no sick bank should she actually become ill.
“Expecting our front line workers who become exposed [by] simply doing their jobs and looking after the rest of us to foot the bill when this happens is absolutely wrong and deplorable. As an Albertan, I had naively assumed that we would be doing MORE for these courageous people not less!!! AHS and the government need to correct this egregious injustice immediately.”
“I was told of a teacher yesterday whose child had a sore throat and sniffles, so had to stay home. As a consequence, the teacher had to take personal days to stay home with their child. She only has 5 and then pay is deducted. This teacher teaches online and would continue teaching online while at home with her daughter, but the principal insisted on calling a sub and forcing personal days to be used….
“Substitute teachers in BC and Alberta do not get sick days at all. If they get sick or just have to self-isolate due to close contact, they have no coverage and just stay home.”
“We’re seeing more addicts in emergency which is really sad and it’s getting tougher for healthcare providers. I’m seeing some nurses and other staff being treated quite callously.”
Workers deemed essential during the First Wave of the pandemic in Alberta were not expected to draw on their bank of personal benefits to quarantine.
That was then.
Today: should a frontline worker be exposed to the virus, the provincial workplace safety regulator enforces the go home & stay away from others rule; you’re required to get tested, and even if COVID-free, you must stay home – for two weeks. But don’t expect the Alberta government or your union to backstop your pay during quarantine. You might become eligible to apply for the federal government sick leave benefit that pays up to $1,000 over two weeks…but that’s not law yet.
Dr. Deena Hinshaw, Alberta’s Chief Medical Officer, is hinting at the risks, cautioning us about the consequences of going to work with COVID-19 conditions.
But if you sequester at home, it comes at a personal cost. You burn through banked sick days. Holidays, too.
POLITICS IS A DISEASE
Partisanship during a pandemic is dumb. Playing games with essential services and frontline workers even dumber.
Yet Alberta’s public sector unions and provincial politicians seem to relish the drama of turning workplace safety into a partisan battleground.
How stupid is that?
Alberta is losing doctors. That’s a fact. Nurses are decamping, as well. The UCP government, meantime, cries poverty (and we are bleeding money like crazy) then bashes public sector unions as greedy and tone deaf; it might be setting the stage for a fiscal pruning, but the penny pinching assault on essential workers is likely to backfire.
You don’t ask soldiers to ration bullets in the thick of a battle. Loyalty to the troops is far more essential than blind faith in a party brand. Our elected officials need to be put on notice.
Here’s what you can do:
1. DEFEND the rights of our responsible frontline workers with compassion & fairness. Every chance you get, ask these workers if they are being treated fairly. Let them know you care.
2. BOYCOTT mean-spirited decision-makers who put a partisan spin on essential services during a pandemic. Let them know when their actions appear to be callous & don’t shy away from throwing light on the consequences of their actions (what happens, for example, if people start showing up to work with COVID-19 symptoms).
3. REQUIRE a more honest airing of the facts by officials, governments, and the media. Write letters to the editor of your local news-service, call in to radio hotline shows, challenge the facts and ask for details on what’s not being said.
THERE WILL BE BLOOD
Accountability is a fact of life for most organizations. Decision-makers face real consequences when they screw up.
The very job of an elected official is to make decisions on behalf of others. When those choices prove unwise, the consequence is being unelected.
The pandemic doesn’t care about politics & partisanship. A bad decision will cost lives.
Can you afford to wait for the next election cycle?