School COVID-19 closures highlight need for mandatory paid sick leave, education funding

Alberta’s COVID-19 infections were starting to go down, then schools came back

EDMONTON - The spike in COVID-19 cases in high schools resulting in outbreaks and closures should serve as a wake-up call for the UCP government. Back in November 2020, Gil McGowan, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour (AFL)  endorsed the call from hundreds of Alberta doctors and citizens for a “circuit-breaker lockdown” because of the UCP’s mismanagement of its pandemic response. Kenney’s UCP government is still failing to provide an adequate response. 

McGowan and the AFL say Alberta needs the following:

  • Mandatory paid sick leave and isolation pay so people can actually afford to stay home when they’re sick or when they need to isolate.
  • Dramatically increased funding for schools – so we can hire more staff to cover when other staff are isolating and to shrink class sizes to promote physical distancing.
  • Mandatory investment in proper ventilation in schools and workplaces, so we can heed the new scientific evidence on aerosol transmission of COVID-19.
  • Proactive inspection of workplaces and fines for employers who have put their workers at risk by not following public health guidelines.
  • Adopt a zero-COVID, “crush and contain” strategy, similar to the ones adopted by the jurisdictions around the world that have been most successful at dealing with COVID-19 – like New Zealand and Australia.

“We need mandatory paid sick leave to ensure that workers can actually heed the advice of public health officials and stay home when they’re sick,” says McGowan “The reality is that only about 30 per cent of working Albertans have paid sick leave. And many can’t work from home. That means many Albertans don’t get paid if they stay home. These people often feel they have no choice but to go to work, even if they’re not feeling well.”  

“If this government is serious about getting the virus under control, then they have to start getting serious about mandatory paid sick leave, isolation pay and other policies to support Albertans. All the experts say the key to beating this thing is ‘test, trace and isolate.’ But we’ll never get the isolation part right until we make it easier for everyone to actually stay home without fear of being unable to put food on their tables or pay their rent or mortgage. Mandatory paid sick leave would help address that weakness.”


Ramona Franson
Director of Communications, AFL
[email protected]