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Paid Sick Days Now!

Carolyn Egan

January 19, 2021

Most manufacturing plants in Ontario do not have paid sick days and workplace spread of Covid 19 is growing significantly. There is an uproar in many of these plants because people are concerned for themselves, their families, and their fellow workers. It’s not just manufacturing, precarious agency workers have no choice but to take low wage jobs in a range of sectors which provide neither benefits nor paid sick days. Many of these workers are women of colour who take public transit and live in neighbourhoods with the highest rates of infection in the city.

The Ford Conservatives took away two paid days, which had been won by a strong campaign targeting the previous Liberal government. While the campaign was a step forward, two days were nowhere near enough. Because of the strong business lobby, Doug Ford callously threw the health of workers under the bus. The call for ten paid days has strong support and should be implemented immediately. So many workers cannot afford to stay home if they are feeling unwell, and this is clearly contributing to the spread of the virus.

Public health officials have been demanding paid days for some time, and now the medical officer of health, as well as the mayor of Toronto have taken up the call. There is a strong campaign on the ground with community organizations and unions pressing the provincial government hard. On one hand the premier is screaming  that we must “stay at home”, and yet makes it impossible for workers to do so if they are sick without losing the income they so desperately need to keep roofs over their heads and food on the table.

It is the essential front line workers who are not able to do their jobs from home that are most at risk, but once again it is profit over people. The statement that “we are all in this together” rings very hollow, and once again class, race and gender make all the difference when we see who is most vulnerable.

It has also recently been made public that many of the workers, primarily racialized women, in long term care facilities who were promised a $3.00 an hour temporary wage increase, have never received it. They need this money immediately, and it should be a permanent raise for these essential workers who are toiling long hours every day to keep the elderly alive through the pandemic. It is the for-profit  companies such as Chartwell and Extendicare which are paying out dividends to their shareholders that are refusing to give monies owed to these workers. Past Tory premier Mike Harris, who pushed the province down the road to privatization in the 1990’s is the chair of the board of Chartwell, making money while residents die.

Pressure has to be put on the Ford government to immediately raise the pay of long term care workers, increase staffing levels, end privatized care, and immediately implement four hours of direct care daily to residents. Coalitions of families and health care activists as well as unions are fighting hard for these necessary improvements.

The pandemic has shown vividly the existing horrors that so many live under every day. We have the real possibility of making some significant breakthroughs, paid sick days and the overhauling of long term care are two of them. These campaigns must be strongly supported. Victories here can make all the difference, giving confidence to the broader working class that it can take the offensive, and push back the ongoing attacks that we are facing in these hard times.   

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