We have managed to gain ground on two critical issues facing workers right now: paid sick days and income recovery benefits. The federal government has just extended the Canada Recovery Benefits and Employment Insurance for workers. In Ontario, Bill 239 is up for a vote on March 1, putting paid sick days within reach for essential workers who can’t stay home when they are sick.
On February 16, health providers, workers, advocates, and more greeted the Ontario legislature’s reopening with over 30,000 petitions calling for paid sick days. The three opposition parties are supporting Bill 239 for seven paid sick days and 14 more paid days during health emergencies. The Ford Government is still insisting that the federal sickness benefit (CRSB) is enough. However, as we keep pointing out, it is not available to all workers. You need to lose over 50% of your work in a week before you can apply for CRSB, it takes time to process, and it does not cover your full wages. The most effective way to let low-wage workers stay home when sick is to legislate accessible, employer-paid paid sick days for all.
Bill 239 will be up for debate today and then our Members of Provincial Parliament (MPPs) will vote on Monday, March 1. It falls on us to insist that the Ford government listen to the people and the medical experts. Keep calling and emailing the Premier and your Conservative MPPs to demand that they support paid sick days! You can find talking points, phone numbers, and a script at www.15andfairness.org/paid_sick_days_for_all. If you are in Ottawa, register for the Paid Sick Days Phone Zap tomorrow: https://www.15andfairness.org/events.
For workers who lost their jobs and haven’t been able to find work for months, the Canada Recovery Benefits and special COVID-19 Employment Insurance are crucial. Workers who applied for the benefits in September were going to see them end in March. WAC organized a press conference last week in which workers shared their stories about why it was so critical for the government to act now to extend income supports until at least December 31.
When workers speak out, we make a difference! The next day, the government announced an extension of the Canada Recovery Benefit (CRB) and Canada Recovery Caregiving Benefit (CRCB) by 12 more weeks (for a total of 38 weeks) and extended EI from 26 weeks to 50 weeks. The announcement is welcome news for EI recipients. However, CRB and CRCB still need to be extended until December 31 or until the end of the pandemic.
In only three months, when CRB and CRCB run out again, many workplaces across sectors will still be closed. The financial crisis will threaten hundreds of thousands of people yet again. You can send an email to the Prime Minister and your MP asking them to extend the Recovery Benefits, improve EI permanently, and make these crucial supports available to all migrant and undocumented workers. No worker should ever be left behind.
*Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB) was extended from 2 weeks to 4 weeks. This is helpful for those sick with COVID-19 who have used up their paid sick days. But it is no substitute for permanent paid sick days.