GOA failing to address crushing workloads
Vulnerable Albertans turning to their government for help aren’t getting the support they need because of turmoil in the Ministries of Children’s Services and Community and Social Services, says the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE).
“Our members desperately want to get vital supports to Albertans in need but are prevented from doing so as quickly as necessary because of staff shortages and crushing workloads,” says Shamanthi Cooray, chair of AUPE Local 006.
“With children going back to school and inflation wreaking economic havoc, this is one of our busier times. We’re not sure how we’re going to handle the workload,” she says. “Instead of addressing long-term staffing issues, the Government of Alberta (GOA) is pushing through with ill-timed restructuring of departments and changes to job descriptions.”
The problems have existed in all regions of the province for years, but the situation has been getting worse.
“These workers are here to help people in need, including people with disabilities, children needing care and desperate families,” says Cooray. “Our members want to do their jobs quickly, fairly and efficiently. The fact they can’t is breaking their hearts and their spirits. Seeing Albertans suffer while decisions are delayed or denied is crushing them.”
Cooray adds: “It’s not uncommon to see caseloads at 120 per cent to 150 per cent of recommended levels. Demand for services grows every year, but the last recession, pandemic and skyrocketing inflation have made that exponentially worse. Meanwhile, we see little or no new staff resources to meet that demand.”
The Children’s Services department has about 3,000 workers, including managers, but it is estimated that there are currently more than 500 people away from work. About one-third of those are on long-term disability and one-third on maternity leaves. The remaining third are off for a variety of reasons, including illness.
“That creates a huge hole in our ability to do our jobs. The employer’s efforts to fill those places has been inadequate,” says Cooray. “We haven’t had an increase in staffing numbers for years.”
Although there is a workload appeal process in place, workers have given up using it because previous appeals have failed to bring any solutions.
“The appeal process is flawed and doesn't lead to fair evaluations,” says Cooray.
One appeal for disability services in the Calgary region in October last year showed that 78 per cent of staff were always or usually falling behind with their work. A total of 38 per cent said they were always burned out; 30 per cent usually burned out; and 27 per cent sometimes burned out, suffering from emotional, physical and mental exhaustion.
“This is what we are seeing across the province in these ministries,” says Cooray. “It results in essential standards for services not being met and families not receiving services in a timely manner.”
AUPE Local 006 chair Shamanthi Cooray is available for interviews.
For information, please contact Terry Inigo-Jones, communications officer, at 403-831-4394 or firstname.lastname@example.org.