Red Deer’s Michener Services deprived staff of income during pandemic, rules arbitrator

RED DEER – Red Deer’s publicly-run home for persons with developmental disabilities (PDD) won a policy-grievance against the province. 

On April 30 the arbitrator determined that the Government of Alberta violated its single-site order by implementing the measure in an unfair, unilateral and unreasonable manner.

The government’s actions cost 90 Michener staff of thousands of dollars in income. Now the government must consult with staff and their union, the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE), to negotiate appropriate compensation.

“This is a big win for vulnerable workers everywhere who love providing compassionate care, but don’t make enough money doing it and have to stretch themselves thin across multiple jobs just to feed their families,” said Bonnie Gostola, AUPE vice-president.

On Aug. 24, 2020, the union filed a policy grievance against the province. Staff accused the province of strong-arming them into selecting Michener as their sole job during the pandemic but didn’t replace their lost hours with regular and overtime hours, as per the single-site order.

“The whole purpose of the order was to protect the sick, the disabled and their caregivers from the devastating financial and health effects of COVID,” added Gostola,

Some members had to defer mortgage payments. Others had to borrow money from family, deplete their life savings or access emergency AUPE benefits.

“Thanks to members telling their stories, justice was served today at the ALRB,” says Gostola. “We’ve set a precedent and proved our PDD members are just as critical as frontline healthcare staff.”