Workers with the Riverstone Transport company in southern Alberta are feeling “angry, frustrated, and disappointed” after hearing they don’t qualify for Alberta’s Critical Worker Benefit, despite being a key part of the food industry.
The company — which is deemed an essential service — transports live cattle to packaging plants to be processed.
“On the eligibility, was the driving sector, anybody that delivers medical or food products that maintain the food-supply chain,” Riverstone Transport office manager, Trish Wietholter said
When Wietholter called to inquire further, she was told the government only considers cattle “food” after it’s been processed.
But if it wasn’t for companies like theirs, Wietholter argues, then there wouldn’t be any livestock to be processed in the first place.
She says since grocery store workers and others in the food-chain industry qualify, but they don’t, they feel left out.
Company accountant, Shauna Berreth, says with their employees not qualifying for any other benefits, it’s been a particularly difficult year.
“A little bit would help, especially since the cattle industry was hit hard at the beginning of the pandemic,” Berreth said.
“Even before it was categorized as a pandemic we could just see the beef industry just dropped, like we were hardly hauling anything at the end of 2019,” she added.
In an effort to stay afloat and diversify their company in the midst of the pandemic, Riverstone Transport also began hauling grain. But over 90 per cent of what they transport is still comprised of cattle.
“A lot of the truckers, you know you’ve got 10 and three are sitting because you’ve only got work for seven and we started hauling grain to feed the cattle, that were sitting in the feedlot because they couldn’t go to the packing plants,” Berreth said.
The Ministry of Labour and Immigration did not specifically tell Global News whether employees at Riverstone Transport qualify, but provided the following statement:
“We understand that many Albertans have been negatively impacted by the pandemic, government has introduced a variety of supports, CWB was designed for health care workers, privates sector workers in supply chain, grocery, medicine, and other similar sectors in order to ensure that we were providing effective support across sectors with the available funding.”
“Employers with declined applications may request a review of their application within 10 days after receiving the original decision,” the statement goes on to say.
“Requests for reconsideration can be made through the Critical Worker Benefit application portal.”