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Alberta

Union pressing Olymel to pay employees during COVID-19 shutdown at Alberta plant

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RED DEER, Alta. — The union representing staff at a central Alberta pork plant says it’s exploring legal options to make sure workers are paid during a shutdown brought on by a COVID-19 outbreak.

Olymel indefinitely closed its hog slaughtering, cutting and deboning operation in Red Deer, Alta., earlier this week after hundreds of workers became infected with the virus.

The president of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 401 says in a statement that the union believes laying off workers without pay during the temporary closure contravenes its collective agreement with the company.

Thomas Hesse says the union believes the company may also be in contravention of employment standards under Alberta law, and the union’s lawyers are reviewing the matter.

An Olymel spokesman confirms that earlier this week all employees were notified by personal letter that they would be laid off throughout the temporary closure.

Richard Vigneault says in an email that the closure is a case of force majeure — or unforeseeable circumstances — and there is no provision in the contract for staff to be paid after operations have ceased.

He says Olymel is maintaining workers’ insurance coverage and will offer wage advances with flexible terms as a bridge until government assistance comes through.

Alberta Health says that, as of Thursday afternoon, it had been notified of 389 cases linked to the Olymel outbreak, 197 of them were active, with one death.

The Canadian Press

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Alberta

Michael Hutchinson earns 31-save shutout, Maple Leafs blank Oilers 3-0

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EDMONTON — Michael Hutchinson earned his sixth career shutout, and the Toronto Maple Leafs blanked the Edmonton Oilers 3-0 on Monday. 

Hutchinson stopped all 31 of the shots he faced as the Leafs (17-4-2) shutdown Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and their teammates for a second straight game.

Toronto also blanked Edmonton 4-0 on Saturday with Jack Campbell in net.

Morgan Rielly and WIlliam Nylander had a goal and an assist apiece Monday, while Zach Hyman also scored for the NHL’s top team.

Oilers (14-10-0) goalie Mikko Koskinen allowed three goals on 10 shots before being replaced by Mike Smith to start the second period. Smith had 13 saves in relief.

Toronto was without Auston Matthews for a second straight game as the team’s star centre recovers from a wrist injury. 

Matthews — who has 31 points (18 goals, 13 assists) on the season — is travelling with the team and took part in an optional skate with his teammates on Monday. 

Toronto’s first shot of the night didn’t come until 7:19 into the first period, but it was worth the wait as Rielly put a pass on Hyman’s tape and the forward sent a nifty backhanded shot past Koskinen to give the Leafs a 1-0 lead. 

Three minutes later, Nylander collected the puck off a faceoff and streaked deep into the Edmonton zone. He sailed a backhander over Koskinen’s glove and into the top-left corner of the net. 

A power-play strike rounded out the first-period scoring after Edmonton’s Adam Larsson was called for hooking. 

Rielly uncorked a blast from near the blue line and, while Koskinen got a piece of it, he couldn’t control the puck and it dribbled through his legs and over the goal line, giving Toronto a 3-0 lead heading into the first intermission. 

The Leafs came into the game with the league’s top-ranked power play, having capitalized on 32.4 per cent of their chances with the man advantage. 

Toronto was 1 for 4 on the power play Monday. Edmonton failed to capitalize on any of its four chances.

The Oilers had ample opportunities to claw out a goal in the third period, outshooting the Leafs 13-8 across the frame, but couldn’t beat Hutchinson.

The 31-year-old goalie’s last shutout came on Jan. 4, 2020, when he led Toronto to a 3-0 victory over the New York Islanders. 

The Leafs and Oilers will wrap up a three-game series in Edmonton on Wednesday. 

NOTES: Earlier on Monday, the Oilers claimed goalie Alex Stalock off waivers from the Minnesota Wild. … Toronto defenceman Jake Muzzin played in the 600th game of his NHL career. … The Leafs have never lost at Edmonton’s Rogers Place during regulation.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Mar. 1, 2021.

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Alberta

CP NewsAlert: Alberta lifts some COVID-19 economic restrictions, delays others

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EDMONTON — Alberta is lifting more economic restrictions tied to COVID-19 while delaying others.

Premier Jason Kenney says low intensity group activities, like Pilates, can resume in fitness centres, and libraries can open at 15 per cent capacity.

But he says loosening measures for retail shops, hotels and community centres can’t happen yet.

He says COVID-19 cases have plummeted in long-term care homes and hospitalizations have dropped, but cases of the variant are worrisome.

Some medical experts, including the Edmonton Zone Medical Staff Association, warned the province last week against loosening public-health measures.

This is Stage 2 of a four-stage plan to reopen the economy announced by Kenney a month ago.

In Stage 1, restaurants were able to reopen for dine-in service, gyms were allowed to resume one-on-one fitness training and some restrictions were lifted on youth sports.

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