In the wake of the Omicron crisis, the Ford government needs to provide workers with 10 employer-paid sick days in Ontario, according to a group of more than 30 labour organizations.
In April, the province implemented the Ontario COVID-19 Worker Income Benefit, which required employers to give their staff three paid sick days for infectious disease emergency leave.
But most Ontarians still don’t have access to paid sick days, the Ontario Federation of Labour said in a joint press release endorsed by more than 30 labour organizations.
“Too many workers must choose between going to work sick or staying home and losing pay,” the statement reads. “When workers try to isolate, they can’t access testing to show their employers they’re sick.”
They call on the Ford government to legislate a minimum of 10 permanent, employer-paid sick days. The group also called for 14 paid sick days during the pandemic, and for workers who contract COVID on the job to have greater access to WSIB support.
The demand for more sick days was part of an emergency appeal for the Ford government to take action to address the Omicron crisis.
“Ontario is continuing to face its worst public health crisis since the COVID-19 pandemic began,” said Patty Coates, Ontario Federation of Labour president. “Our health care system remains in crisis, schools are still not equipped to protect students and education workers, and most Ontarians still do not have adequate paid sick days. This crisis is far from over. We need urgent action now.”
They also asked the government to recall the legislature for an emergency session, repeal Bills 124 and 195. Bill 124 limits wage increases for registered nurses, nurse practitioners and health-care professionals to just one per cent per year.
Bill 195 extends and modifies emergency orders but also makes it easier for employers to override collective agreement provisions and the grievance arbitration procedure.
The joint statement also calls for an emergency summit of all stakeholders in the health care system, asks the government to ensure health care and educational institutions have protective equipment such as N95 masks and enhanced ventilation. They call for an emergency public health campaign.
The labour organizations included the Ontario Nurses’ Association, Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario, and CUPE Ontario.
“Our province was in crisis before the Omicron surge, and things have only gotten worse,” Coates added. “This government has continued to chronically underfund public services, and repeatedly failed people in this province. Their half-measures and empty rhetoric have only harmed Ontarians. It is far past time for real and meaningful action.”