$1,200 payment for front-line workers has some feeling left out

EDMONTON — A day after Alberta premier Jason Kenney announced 380,000 front-line workers would receive a $1,200 lump sum payment for their work during the pandemic, some say they’re feeling left out.

The president of the Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA) told CTV News Edmonton Thursday teachers are “feeling a little disrespected by the announcement.”

“They’ve been working on the front-line so they would like to have that hard work they’ve been doing through the pandemic recognized by the government,” said Jason Schilling.

Schilling said he was pleased to see educational assistants, librarians and bus drivers are eligible – since many were laid off last year when in-person classes were cancelled – but he is disappointed substitute teachers didn’t make the cut.

“Substitute teachers are also working really hard and a lot of them don’t have the same kind of income or benefits security that contracted teachers would have.”

Schilling added he’s glad to see the province “finally access” federal dollars but “we had no input into it.”

‘BETTER THAN NOTHING’: UNA

The union representing Alberta nurses also said it was not consulted.

Unlike teachers, registered nurses, registered practical nurses and licensed practical nurses are eligible for the benefit.

“Twelve-hundred dollars is a whole lot better than nothing,” said Heather Smith, United Nurses of Alberta (UNA) president.

“But it is, in itself, in some ways a small sort of payment compared to, you know, the potential loss of 11,000 jobs in health care. The loss of some 750 registered nurse positions pending the end of the pandemic.”

Smith said there are also lingering questions around when workers will receive the payment and around the requirement to have worked 300 hours between Oct. 12 and Jan. 31.

“What if I have, you know, I’m 10 hours short of 300 but that’s because I was sick for two days or I took some vacation?”

HEALTH CARE AIDES STILL NOT APPROVED

The federal government is providing three-quarters of the $465 million benefit and the province is making up the rest.

On Thursday, the province’s labour minister said all occupations included in the announcement have been signed off on by the federal government, with the exception of health care aides.

Jason Copping said the province is “still pushing” to ensure they are on the list.

A spokesperson for the federal finance ministry said in a statement “we will evaluate each request as quickly as possible.”

With files from CTV Edmonton’s Carlyle Fiset

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