Approximately 1,650 unvaccinated employees of Alberta Health Services are on unpaid leave


Alberta Health Services’ immunization deadline for employees passed Monday and, while the vast majority complied, approximately 1,650 employees are currently on unpaid leave.

AHS confirmed Tuesday night that full-time and part-time workers on unpaid leave will be able to return to their roles at any time if they provide proof of adequate immunization.

According to AHS, the staffing cuts are not expected to cause additional delays in surgery, reduce access to emergency care, or affect access to acute care beds.

“This policy will help us protect those in our care, as well as those who provide care, treatment and support to Albertans,” an AHS spokesperson said in a statement sent to CTV News. . “We are extremely grateful to 97% of full- and part-time staff and 99.7% of doctors who have been fully vaccinated to date.”

An additional 175 unvaccinated AHS employees, who were eligible for targeted, temporary COVID-19 testing, have been allowed to continue working at 19 selected work sites as well as nine EMS sites across the country. whole province.

Experimental options have been introduced at these undisclosed locations, which AHS says poses a risk of service disruption.

AHS also confirmed that some employees who were eligible to take the interim test declined that option and were placed on unpaid leave.

A breakdown of the roles of affected employees has not been released, but it apparently includes nursing staff as the United Nurses of Alberta (UNA) filed a policy complaint on behalf of the employees. affected member.


UNA considers it discriminatory to allow some employers to continue working with rapid tests while suspending others.

“What we’re talking about is the original policy, which we thought was a reasonable and effective policy. But what happened was they changed the date a few times, but then they changed the whole thing. So what’s happening now is, if you’re David Harrigan, UNA’s Director of Industrial Relations, says: ‘unvaccinated, you’re not allowed to work and you’re in a LOA does not pay (leave) unless you are in a certain area”.

“So we now have some people who have not been vaccinated and are about to take the test, but they are told no, you are not allowed. You have to stay home without pay,” he added. “And (then there are) other nurses who haven’t been vaccinated, and they’re told ‘you come in and get paid.’ It just doesn’t make sense to treat different areas differently. everyone people as long as there’s testing, or it’s not safe.”

The exact wording of the UNA complaint filed Monday says that “this policy is unreasonable because it applies to employees and positions who can perform their jobs remotely and therefore does not cause harm.” risk to others. This policy is not tied to outbreaks or pandemics; the indefinite nature of the policy is unreasonable and unfair”.

It went on to say that “AHS has twice delayed implementation of this policy and this makes the timelines in the policy unclear. The employer did not enforce its policy consistently.

“The effect of this policy is that some people have complied with vaccination and others have not. There are no consequences for those who do not.”

The UNA claim has yet to be examined through arbitration.


The Alberta Civil Service Union has also filed a number of complaints about the vaccination mandate.

AUPE Vice President Bonnie Gostola said the union understands the need to mandate vaccines from a health and safety perspective for all Albertans but is legally bound to protect their workers. in labor matters.

“We certainly know there are some of our unions that are anti-vaxxers, and we strongly recommend that members get vaccinated, and since getting vaccinated our members have advised them,” Gostola said. should get the vaccine,” Gostola said. , they must also accept the consequences of their actions, and if they disagree with the consequences and disagree with what their employers have done, they have the right, under the collective agreement and under the human rights people, etc., complaints, which the union will defend. “

AHS stated the suspension would not affect patient care.

Unions say workers who stick to the rules and get vaccinated will be punished with heavier workloads and forced to work overtime.

“They’re essentially forcing people who might have been given the Christmas break to work longer hours, they might have to work with shorter breaks, overtime again would work.” crippled,” says Gostola. “Our members are literally beyond the breaking point right now. They’re suffering from the shortage that’s happened due to COVID.”

“Now they will have to suffer even more.”

University of Calgary law professor Lorian Hardcastle worries that seemingly flexible rules and subsequent labor disputes in large bodies like AHS will force smaller companies to comply with vaccine regulations. their own.

“If AHS has their vaccine mandate weakened, and we’ve recently seen the City of Calgary’s vaccine mandate weakened, I worry that smaller workplaces don’t have the same regulatory resources under Their intentions may feel like they need to be followed, or If they haven’t implemented a vaccination program for employees they probably won’t,” said Hardcastle. that big employer for guidance, and so I’m concerned about the effect this has on smaller businesses.”

AHS said it would review its immunization mandate and all forced leave of absence by the end of March 2022.

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