The Worker Protection Income Benefit is set to expire at the end of this month. This woefully inadequate temporary benefit provided workers with 3 COVID related sick days. Inadequate, but better than nothing. Just recently, the Ontario governement confirmed that they will not be renewing the program. This leaves the majority of workers in Ontario without any protection if they get sick at work. Unacceptable! We need paid sick days, and we need them now! We encourage you to take action, and to write the premier, the minister of labour, and your local MP about why we need paid sick days. CLICK THIS LINK.
Taking action works! After months of pressure, this past December, the pressure put on the Federal government by the Justice for Workers movement and allies in organized Labour successfully resulting in federally provided paid sick days!
On December 1st, 2022, minister of Labour, Seamus O’Regan Jr., announced that 10 days of paid sick leave are now in effect for all working in the federally regulated private sector workplaces. Workers who have been continuously employed for at least 30 days will have access to their first three days of paid sick leave as of December 31, 2022. Starting on February 1, 2023, workers will acquire a fourth day of paid sick leave and will continue to accumulate one day of paid sick leave on the first day of each month following, up to a maximum of 10 days per year. This is a significant milestone for federally regulated workers as this represents a permanent change to the Canada Labour Code. It will empower workers to prioritise their health and will improve working conditions for the nearly 1 million workers in the federally regulated private sector. Among other things, having access to paid sick leave is expected to reduce the number of days workers show up to work sick, reduce the spread of illness in the workplace, and help Canadians recover from illness faster.
Although this is a step in the right direction it is not enough. It is important that workers on a provincial level also receive paid sick days, as well as workers having immediate access to the 10 days instead of accumulating one day each month. As of December 18, 2022, the maximum length of unpaid medical leave will also be extended. It is being increased from 17 to 27 weeks to align with the extension of the Employment Insurance (EI) sickness benefits from 15 to 26 weeks. A poll from Unifor revealed that the majority of Ontarians support legislating paid sick days to workers, in fact a poll, conducted by EKOS Research Associates Inc from April 7-12, 2021, reveals that Ontarians support the implementation of paid sick days by a margin of four to one. 68% of people also are in favour of providing a subsidy to small businesses to help them cover the costs of paid sick leave. Doctors and nurses are also in favour of providing paid sick days as it leads to fewer sick people, better productivity and less crowded hospitals, decreases absenteeism, and boosts the morale of the workplace. The organisation Justice4Workers talks about the steps they took to bring awareness to workers not having enough paid sick days. Doug Ford and the conservative party of Ontario provided workers with 10 paid sick days after many individuals spoke up about it.
Justice4Workers promoted the paid sick days phone zap where they encouraged individuals to call Doug Ford, the conservative party of Ontario, and the MInister of Labor, and explain why 3 paid sick days is not enough. They also held organising meetings in Ottawa to think of ways to help promote the fight for 10 paid sick days. With the 10 paid sick days being approved Justice4Workers continues to fight for 14 paid sick days as covid-19 is a prominent sickness that continues to affect Canadian workers, as well as fighting for provincial workers also needing an increase in paid sick days.
At the Sudbury Workers Education and Advocacy Centre we continue to fight for 10 paid sick days and decent work for all by standing with social movements including ones organised by Justice4Workers and the Decent Work and Health Network.
Written by Noah Carpino