List of questions
- How much is the top-up? Is it the same rate for all eligible workers?
- What are the eligibility criteria for this program?
- Where does this money come from?
- Was AUPE consulted about this benefit before it was released?
- UPDATED: Which job classifications does this apply to in healthcare?
- Are Health Care Aides (HCAs) eligible for the benefit?
- Which job classifications does this apply to in social services?
- Which job classifications does this apply to in education?
- Do I need to apply for this benefit, or is it automatic? How do I apply?
- Is this benefit taxable?
- I worked over 300 hours, but divided between multiple jobs. Am I eligible?
- Do we expect the access criteria to be expanded?
- I’m casual or part-time, does this apply to me?
- The government didn’t include me in this top-up, and I’m frustrated by that.
1. How much is the top-up? Is it the same rate for all eligible workers?
The Critical Worker Benefit is a one-time payment of $1,200. It is the same amount for all eligible workers. That breaks down to $109 per month for the past 11 months, since the pandemic began.
2. What are the eligibility criteria for this program?
In order to be eligible for this benefit:
- You must work in an eligible job (see questions five, six, seven, and eight to know whether your job is eligible)
- You must have worked a minimum of 300 hours total between October 12, 2020, and January 31, 2021.
- If you work in the private sector, then your normal wage must be under $25 per hour in order to be eligible.
On its website, the government has a list of eligible jobs and eligibility criteria.
3. Where does this money come from?
The Government of Alberta is finally taking advantage of a large grant from the federal government, which the federals government made available last May. That money was meant specifically to increase the wages of frontline workers during the pandemic. In order to access the funds, the Government of Alberta had to commit to pay 25 per cent of the total cost. So, three quarters of the money comes from the federal government, while one quarter comes from the province.
Since the federal government made the money available, Alberta has been the one province which has refused to take it. AUPE and other unions have been advocating publicly for the UCP to finally give this money to essential workers.
4. Was AUPE consulted about this benefit before it was released?
No. Despite AUPE leading the charge for wage top-ups for essential workers, the UCP did not consult with us as they were developing their plan. If they had, we would have made the same argument that we have been making for months—that every single frontline worker deserves a wage top-up, not just an arbitrary list of some of them. A basic requirement of democratic governance is consultation with constituents. Why can't the UCP follow this basic principle?
5. UPDATED: Which job classifications does this apply to in healthcare?
Eligible workers must work in continuing care, acute care, addictions and mental health, homecare or hospice care, and be under any of the following classifications:
- Administrative services
- Allied health
- Diagnostic and therapeutic services
- Emergency medical service
- Mental health and addiction
- Non-clinical support services
- Patient care support services
- Cultural and faith-based support services
For a full list of specific occupations, read the government’s eligibility document for healthcare workers, which is available here. The list of eligible occupations begins on page 10.
If you work one of the eligible jobs, but your employer is a private company rather than the public sector, we believe that you will still be eligible for the benefit—but rather than being paid automatically, your employer will have to apply on your behalf. Please keep your Membership Services Officer informed if you do not receive the benefit despite believing you are eligible.
6. Are Health Care Aides (HCAs) eligible for the benefit?
Yes, HCAs are eligible for the benefit. However, HCAs who have been receiving the $2 per hour wage top-up—implemented in some private Long-Term Care and Designated Supportive Living facilities in the spring—are not eligible for the benefit. Just like their previous decision to only give some HCAs a $2 per hour wage top-up, this unnecessary exclusion is yet another attempt by the UCP to divide workers. We as AUPE members need to stand in solidarity with one another, and demand that all frontline workers receive pandemic bonuses.
HCAs are frontline workers who make sure our healthcare institutions run, and this bonus is the bare minimum reward that they should receive after these months of pandemic.
7. UPDATED: Which job classifications does this apply to in social services?
While many of the details remain unclear, we are of the understanding that this only applies to workers in contracted agencies and not for Government of Alberta workers, despite GOA workers being in vulnerable workplaces prone to outbreaks. Eligible workers must work in the following fields.
- Community and social services
- Preventative community services
- Disability services
- Seniors and housing
- Children service providers
Within each of those fields, there is also a list of specific occupation which are eligible, which you can find on the government’s website here, under the "Social Services Workers” tab. Unfortunately, the government still has not released a list of occupations under “Community and social services.”
8. Which job classifications does this apply to in education?
For education workers, there are some extra qualifications regarding the number of hours worked. For education workers:
- Hours are of paid work may include some virtual or online work where the work was performed with students.
- The minimum number of paid hours (300) will be pro-rated for periods of time when schools were required to be closed.
- As each school district had different dates when schools were closed, minimum hour prorations will be calculated on a case-by-case basis for individual school authorities.
If you work in one of the following occupations, and meet that criteria, then you are eligible:
- Educational or teacher assistants
- Bus drivers
- Custodians and janitors
- School secretarial staff-related positions
While we are happy that some of our members will be receiving this benefit, we are frustrated by the fact that not all of them will. The UCP laid off a substantial amount of education workers over the past year, and this means that they will also be excluded from this benefit. This government continues to show disrespect to workers, even when it is offering them a reward.
9. Do I need to apply for this benefit, or is it automatic? How do I apply?
If you are a public sector worker, you will receive the payment automatically if you fall within the eligibility criteria.
If you are a private sector worker who falls within the eligibility criteria, your employer is responsible for applying and distributing the funds. Applications begin on February 17, and the deadline for employers to apply is March 19. The government will be launching an online portal for applications on the 17th.
10. Is this benefit taxable?
Yes. You will need to declare this benefit on your tax returns as income. It is also subject to payroll deductions for Canada Pension Plan and Employment Insurance. It will not affect your eligibility for Employment Insurance.
11. I worked over 300 hours, but divided between multiple jobs. Am I eligible?
Unfortunately, you are not eligible. According to the government’s eligibility criteria, you must have worked 300 hours at a single worksite.
Workers who rely on multiple jobs to make ends meet are even more vulnerable than their fellow workers with stable jobs. Those workers deserve a pandemic bonus just as much as any other worker. If the government had consulted with us, we would have fought against this arbitrary exclusion of workers.
12. Do we expect the access criteria to be expanded?
The government has made no indication that it will be expanding eligibility criteria, and the list of eligible healthcare occupations, which was released late in the evening of February 22, appears to be the final version. We will continue to argue that all essential workers deserve pandemic bonuses—even more than just a one-time payment, but also long-term changes to improve wages, benefits, and working conditions.
13. I’m casual or part-time, does this apply to me?
It depends on how many hours you’ve worked. The eligibility criteria does not change based on your status as part-time or casual. If you work in one of the eligible fields, have worked a minimum of 300 hours between Oct. 12 and Jan. 31, and (if you’re in the private sector), make less than $25 per hour, then you are eligible. But if you have fewer hours on the books, then you are no longer eligible.
14. The government didn’t include me in this top-up, and I’m frustrated by that.
You’re right to be frustrated. The UCP took money that was supposed to go to all essential frontline workers, and decided that only some of them would actually get a top-up. They excluded significant numbers of public sector workers at the government of Alberta, and they added a requirement for minimum hours that will de-facto exclude many of our co-workers who are part-time.
Not only that, but even for workers who do receive the benefit, Jason Kenney has made clear that he still intends to cut our wages in the next round of collective bargaining. We see this move for what it is—a bad boss trying to thank us with a symbolic measure, while he tries to make our working lives worse.
If you aren’t eligible, but feel that you should be, you can contact Premier Jason Kenney using any of the following methods:
- Call the UCP Caucus: 1-888-465-2660
- Email: email@example.com
You should also contact your local MLA. You can find their contact information here. Just enter your postal code. Let them know that you don’t appreciate their attempt to divide workers, and that all workers deserve this top-up.