TORONTO, December 9, 2020 — Ontario’s frontline workers are outraged at Premier Doug Ford, Health Minister Christine Elliott, and Labour Minister Monte McNaughton who are getting a two-day head start on their own fully-paid, nine-week holiday break, while closing the door on legislating paid sick leave.
Earlier, the Employment Standards Critic MPP Peggy Sattler had tabled the Stay Home If You Are Sick Act. Had it passed, this law would have provided seven paid sick days to all workers permanently and an additional 14 paid days during pandemics.
“This legislation would have saved lives,” said Stephanie Sarmiento, a Registered Nurse in Toronto. “When I call patients who need to self-isolate for COVID-19 their top concern is: ‘I can’t afford to lose pay. Does this mean I can’t go to work?’ I am at a loss for words to learn this government would rather adjourn the legislature early than implement paid sick days.”
Despite most recent data showing that workplaces now account for almost one-third of all COVID-19 cases in the province, workers are still not guaranteed a single paid sick day by Ontario law. In fact, according to research published by the Decent Work & Health Network, three-quarters of service sector workers have no paid sick days, and therefore cannot afford to stay home if they have symptoms.
“Walking out before passing paid sick days legislation is like walking out on our entire community,” said Nahar Aujla, a community leader who lives in Peel. “We have the highest concentrations of frontline jobs: warehouse workers, taxi and delivery drivers, personal support workers, and temp agency workers. Most of us don’t have paid sick days and all of us are scared of going to work. I’m shocked the government has done nothing to protect us.”
Since the onset of the pandemic, medical experts have repeatedly called on government officials to bring in paid sick leave measures, which have been proven to be an effective tool in curbing infection rates and saving lives. As Dr Lawrence Loh, Peel’s Medical Officer of Health recently observed: “It’s time for employers who choose not to pay employees when they are sick to put people over profit. The cost of COVID-19 spreading across our community is far greater than the price of a few sick days.”
“I’m a grocery store worker and 70% of the workers here have no paid sick days,” said Deb Henry. “Employers deliberately hire part-time workers instead of full-time workers, so many of us don’t get enough hours and have to work elsewhere. Some of my co-workers are also personal support workers, and they don’t get paid sick days anywhere.”
“Premier Ford has rushed through legislation in a matter of days when it’s a priority for him. Yet when it comes to protecting the lives of the most vulnerable workers who are literally keeping this province going, there’s nothing,” said Deena Ladd, Executive Director of the Workers’ Action Centre. “The abject failure of this government to protect workers during this global pandemic is a disgrace. Adjourning two days early in this context adds insult to injury. This assembly should not have recessed until every single worker in this province can afford to stay home when they are sick.”
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Workers’ Action Centre (WAC) is a member-based organization committed to improving the lives and working conditions of people in low-wage and unstable employment. We operate a confidential hotline in multiple languages, support workers to defend their rights and organize to strengthen labour laws. For more info, visit: https://workersactioncentre.org/