Posted on May 7, 2020
PERSONAL CARE WORKERS RAISE LITANY OF CONCERNS WITH REOPENING
EDMONTON - The NDP Official Opposition is standing with personal care workers worried about their safety and that of their customers. With a week to go until the Premier reopens their places of work, workers and business owners are demanding answers from Jason Kenney and the UCP government.
“Every unanswered question they have comes with fears for the health and safety of their clients, co-workers, and family,” said NDP Leader Rachel Notley. “Premier Jason Kenney seems more obsessed with winning the race to reopen the economy. Without very clear, sector specific guidelines, rushing forward could mean further outbreaks of COVID-19, the potential of a second shutdown, and significant financial risk for these businesses.”
In Ontario, more than 60 sector-specific guidelines have been released publicly providing a clear set of detailed protocols for businesses and workers to follow.
Twenty personal care workers joined the NDP Caucus in a press conference Thursday to pose unanswered questions they have about reopening plans.
“Hairstylists and Barbers are being asked to open up their salons or return to their places of work without safety guidelines and without supports to buy necessary equipment and to install necessary protective measures” said Janis Irwin, MLA for Edmonton Highlands-Norwood. “They deserve to be consulted, they deserve answers to their questions, and right now they aren’t getting them.”
Among the questions posed were:
- We are important to our clients, but our services are not life and death. Why are we part Phase 1 opening, and not Phase 2?
- Hairstyling is a licensed profession, we are a trade, and our governing body is the Government of Alberta. When will our governing body give us specific protocols on how to open, given how close we work with people?
- Is Alberta adopting rules like they’ve got in the United States? No waiting in the salon? No kids in the salon? What about workstations? Do I need to install plexiglass between?
- Everyone needs masks to keep people safe, particularly if we can’t socially distance. So if we are going to open up personal service work as part of Phase 1, is the government going to mandate the public wearing masks in public?
- There are lots of ways to work as a hairstylist. You have owners, you have commission, you have hourly, and you have chair renters. For chair renters, how do you afford to work? You get less clients, less hours worked, costs for PPE, and you still have childcare costs. So if I go back to work, I’ll make much less money. But if I don’t go back to work, I don’t think I’ll still qualify for CERB, because I can earn some money. So what is the government’s answer for me? How will I be able to pay my bills working during Stage 1?
- If the government wants us to open in Stage 1 under strict conditions, will they provide financial help for PPE, and for the lost time we’ll be spending cleaning and disinfecting?
- Have they consulted with anyone in our specific industry?
- If I can’t hug my mother yet, why am I going back to work? That’s the one thing I want to do. And I have to go cut peoples’ hair? I don’t understand that.
- My building has 34 companies who do personal services. If we're getting sent back without any proper mandatory Protocols or Requirements for a business owner of a salon, if one person (we share bathrooms and elevators) and we got shut down, is there government funding for loss of business? lease coverage?
- We know that in the industry, our sanitizing standards are different than in healthcare settings. Will there be more enforcement? How will we know that folks are abiding by the new more rigorous standards? And what are those standards? Do I still use alcohol to sanitize my scissors? Do I use something else that’s medical grade? Where do I get it? What is it called? What is the protocol? These details are need.
- I have a bunch of concerns that I don’t think the government has thought through when it comes to the hairstyle industry. Like the use of blow-dryers. Yesterday, when it was mentioned, Dr. Hinshaw didn’t have an answer to whether it was safe. But blow-drying is essential for most services like colour corrections. So what do we do? We have to blow dry and it has to be 100% dry. If we don’t blow dry, then we’ll have the cost of redos.
- Do we have to change masks every hour? And hairstylists have lots of face-to-face time. For short cuts, for bangs, at the sink… how do we keep safe while still having to be that close to do our jobs? I just don’t understand how this will work, and if it’s complicated, why are we Stage 1?
- As the first personal service industry to go back to work, why isn't the government setting clear regulations rather than just recommended guidelines to ensure success for the next phase?
- I’m being told by the government that I don’t have to open in Stage 1, but I’m allowed to. In reality, I have to open because I need to cover rent, and I won’t get rent relief if the government says I can be open. I’m doing my best to order PPE, but it’s still at least three weeks away. How am I meant to deal with rent payments when I can’t open because of PPE?
- The plan seems really, really, really not ready. Half the industry is in, and half the industry is out. We know a lot of shops that don’t properly clean, and they are still open. We don’t have enough OHS people right now, so how can we ensure we’ll have enough inspections when their workload will be so much higher?
- Has the government consulted with anyone in the industry that actually cuts the hair, and the practicality of doing this?
- Am I meant to be doing health assessments? I don’t have any training to do this, and I don’t have any bounds of confidentiality, like a doctor. Also, I haven’t been trained on how to properly put on PPE. We’ve all seen on TV how complicated it is in the hospitals, so how are we meant to do it – and know that we are doing it right – in just a few days time?
- What about home salons? I have seen nothing. I'm prepared to work on the 14th, but I have my kids home who are usually at school, so is it okay if they are here when my clients are coming?
- I’ve reduced my income by not being able to do multiple clients at a time, can we also do other services?
- I cannot wrap my head around why we are in Phase 1 when massage therapists and technicians are all in Phase 2. We are absolutely the guinea pigs and I think Mr. Kenney has thrown us to the wolves. I'm a single mom, never had any government benefit aside from maternity leave. I hate taking this money. I feel forced to go back to work or I have no money. I feel like we have been put in a lose lose situation without consultation.
Jason Kenney and the UCP must address their concerns immediately so these Albertans can plan appropriately or decide for themselves if the risk of returning to work is too great.