UNA asks long-term-care facility operators to create province-wide staffing approach to ensure resident and staff safety during COVID-19 outbreak

United Nurses of Alberta has asked all operators of long-term-care facilities in Alberta to work together with the union to create a province-wide approach to ensure the safety of residents and staff in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In a letter sent today to 25 long-term-care facility operators, UNA Labour Relations Director David Harrigan also proposed a way to ensure the fair treatment of employees whose work schedules are disrupted by an outbreak of COVID-19.

“The current situation is rapidly leading to chaos,” Harrigan’s letter stated, noting that some employers are insisting employees work at only one site, while others are actively discouraging employees from complying with other employers’ rules.

Harrigan told the employers it is clear having staff employed at more than one facility is unwise. However, his letter also says it is not wise to simply expect staff to suffer financially during this time.

In addition, Harrigan said it is clear some provisions of collective agreements, such as scheduling and who is permitted to perform bargaining unit work, may need to be relaxed during the health emergency. Finally, the letter calls for proper Personal Protective Equipment to be provided to employees.

UNA has provided the employers with a proposed letter of understanding that would put in place consistent policies to protect staff and residents from the coronavirus and ensure staff who work at multiple sites are protected from financial suffering in the event COVID-19 breaks out at one of their work locations, Harrigan said.

“We believe it is extremely important for Employers and Unions to work together at this time to ensure the safety of staff and residents,” his letter states. “We also believe a standard approach across the province must be taken, rather than dealing with issues on an ad hoc basis site by site.”

“We strongly believe that if Employers and the Union could reach an agreement, it would be very helpful as Employee buy-in is extremely important,” his letter added.

The draft Letter of Understanding was sent to the Long-Term-Care Employers with UNA members on staff, with copies to Alberta Health Services officials, other unions and Health Minister Tyler Shandro.