It’s become painfully clear that making sure essential workers are protected at work is not a priority for the Ford government. That ends now. This May Day, workers are rising up with a new set of demands for the Ontario government. On Saturday, May 1st at 11:00 am, join the Justice for Workers Online Rally to raise your voice along with hundreds of people demanding essential worker protections.
In an announcement last week, the Premier finally admitted the province needed to act on paid sick leave. Ontario workers have been anxiously waiting for this legislation as rates of infection continue to rise and workplace outbreaks increase. Yesterday, Labour Minister Monte McNaughton announced the Conservatives’ plan to introduce a temporary Worker Income Protection Benefit (WIPB) for workers who are sick and think they may have COVID-19. The proposed plan will allow three days of paid sick days for workers who can get paid by their employer with a cap of $200 per day. For example, if you earn $15 per hour and work a seven hour day, you will receive $105 per day for three days. The employer will then get reimbursed by the government with our tax dollars – regardless if it’s a struggling small business or a wealthy corporation like Amazon or Walmart.
There are a number of flaws with the program. First, three days are not enough. Public health recommends at least two weeks of isolation if exposed to COVID-19. We need a decent program of at least 10 days with an additional 14 days during a pandemic. Secondly, if a worker is sick for more than three days and needs to apply for the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB), they will have to wait until the next week as you cannot apply for both programs at once. This means workers will only get three days’ pay for the first week off sick. In the example above, a worker would only get $315 for one week. For low-income workers, the benefits are lower than the current CRSB which at least pays $450 per week. Finally, the program is temporary. It will only last until September 25, 2021, which means if you get sick after that date you again will be faced with the choice of your health or your bills.
Workers should be proud that our organizing is having an impact and forcing the government to act. It is proof that organizing is working. But the proposed program is deeply flawed and does not meet the principles of a decent paid sick day program that can work. We must keep fighting for the paid sick day legislation that we really need – one that is permanent, fully paid, accessible, employer-provided, and offers an adequate number of days to recover.
But the insult and injury to workers goes beyond a lack of paid sick days. Earlier this month, instead of bringing in paid sick days, the government chose to increase police powers to enforce a lockdown. When faced with a public outcry, Ford slightly rolled back police powers. If you are worried about the police stopping you during the stay-at-home order, please see this lockdown factsheet.
In the workplace, workers are facing many other issues of precarious and unsafe work. The time is now to challenge these deep systemic inequities and fight for decent work! The demands of the new Justice for Workers, Decent Work for All campaign are the result of one-on-one and group conversations with hundreds of workers over the last several months. Here’s a glimpse at some of the critical demands needed to ensure decent working conditions in Ontario workplaces:
- A higher minimum wage – $20 per hour that can pay the bills!
- 10 paid sick days permanently, and 14 more paid days during health outbreaks
- Equal pay for equal work for part-time, casual, and temp agency workers
- Stronger enforcement strategies to make employers follow the law
- An end to racism, discrimination, and workplace bullying
- Full, permanent immigration Status for All – and more!
Come to the online rally to hear from workers about all of the demands. Invite your family and friends to register, too. With music, speeches and the chance to take action, let’s begin organizing together to win justice for workers! Register now for the Justice for Workers Online Rally and share the event on Facebook.