Alberta’s Health Care Pandemic Pay Sucks

Fewer Alberta workers qualify for pandemic wage bonuses and the top-ups are smaller than other provinces

EDMONTON – The UCP’s pandemic pay for frontline health care workers is lower than other provinces, with fewer workers qualifying and an unclear process that leaves almost everyone confused, the Alberta Federation of Labour has found.

“The Kenney government likes to say nice things about frontline health care workers during the pandemic response, but their actions don’t match their words,” says AFL president Gil McGowan. “Compared to provinces west of Quebec, the Kenney government has bungled this file. They’re offering smaller top-ups to fewer workers. The whole thing is a disappointing, confusing and insulting mess.”

AFL researchers found that, compared to provinces west of Quebec, Alberta has the lowest level of pandemic pay top-ups and the narrowest eligibility. Unlike other provinces, Alberta’s top-ups are offered to only one category of health care worker (health care aides), as opposed to the much broader range of workers seen in other provinces; and there is no information on the government website about scope or process for workers to receive the bonuses.

“For weeks, unions have been calling on the Kenney government to clear the air on pandemic pay for frontline workers and provide some clear information about how this is being handled. Instead, government staff, paid by our taxes, are sent to mock and gaslight unions and their members and supporters working on the frontlines."

“The government hasn’t even been clear on when pandemic pay starts. Minister Shandro said in the Assembly that it started in April 20, but the government’s pandemic response started a full month earlier. They’ve allowed this confusion to fester."

“The government hasn’t been clear on how much money is going to private seniors’ care operators and what it will be used for. The figures for pandemic pay change between news reports covering the announcement and the Minister’s statements in the Legislature. The confusion creates unneeded stress for frontline health care workers.”

“Leaders in other provinces value frontline workers in a meaningful way. They didn’t ram through budgets to cut public services during the pandemic. They didn’t pick fights with doctors and they didn’t ignore the unions that represent frontline workers,” says McGowan.

“When the pandemic was headed our way, Premier Kenney said his government would ‘spare no expense’ in the fight against it. In retrospect, that simply wasn’t true. Kenney has billions for a pipeline that may never get built, but peanuts for the workers actually waging the fight on the COVID-19,” says McGowan.

“The AFL and its member unions once again call on Premier Kenney and Minister Shandro to clear the air on the pandemic pay. We call on them to provide Albertans the assurance that the funds provided to privatized seniors’ care companies are actually going to frontline health care workers and improving the care of residents. We also call on them to reconsider their miserly approach of giving such small top-up to such a narrow range of frontline workers. By most measures, we’re still the wealthiest province in the country, but we’re at the back of the pack when it comes to supporting our frontline workers with pandemic wage top ups. It’s shameful. There’s no doubt that we can and should do better.”

Click here for a detailed summary of the comparison of pandemic wage top-ups between provinces.


Ramona Franson
Director of Communications, AFL
[email protected]