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Paid sick days for all: let’s get it done

Publish date: Wednesday, January 27, 2021 presidentsMessage

President Dave Bulmer

While the Premier focuses on international travel, the reality is that travel-related cases of COVID-19 in Ontario make up just 1% of new cases since September 1. Yes, we must do more to limit the amount of cross-border travel. But focussing on this alone is ignoring the realities of the situation.  

The overwhelming evidence is that a lot of Ontario’s pandemic spread is happening at work. It’s happening on shift, on break, while commuting, or between customers or clients and workers.

Yet, nearly 58% of workers in Canada do not have access to paid sick leave. That climbs to more than 70% among those earning less than $25,000 a year. These are folks more likely to be the essential workers we’re all relying on right now (and, frankly, always have)—those caring for our loved ones, ensuring shelves are stocked at our grocery stores, and delivering products to our doors.

Unions empower workers to negotiate the terms and conditions of their employment, including paid sick days. AMAPCEO members have bargained for strong income and job protections if we fall ill and have to miss work. But the number of unionized workers in Ontario’s private sector is on the decline—falling from 19 per cent in 1997 to just 14 per cent in 2014—leaving far too many workers subject to the generosity of their employer.

We’re seeing some signs of hope. More and more working Ontarians, fed up with inadequate protections, unfair wages, and discrimination from their private sector employers, are using their collective power to unionize.

But workplace drives take time, and as we know all too well, COVID-19 won’t wait.

We are now ten long months into this pandemic in Ontario. More than 260,370 Ontarians have fallen ill with the virus. Nearly 6,000 have died. How many of those cases could have been avoided if the government had made paid sick leave an employment standard?

All workers need the option to be able to take paid sick leave. And they need it now. Without it, too many are backed into an impossible corner, and we all pay the price. The pandemic rages on.

The temporary federal Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB) is certainly better than nothing, but the program is deeply flawed. Advocates have rightly critiqued the program for being insufficient and cumbersome. It fails to cover some of the most precarious workers.

More than 145 countries or jurisdictions around the world require employers to provide paid sick leave for short or long-term illnesses. Ontario must join them. For a country and a province that prides itself on its social safety net to not be among those with paid sick leave is an embarrassment.

The faster we can get COVID-19 under control in Ontario, the fewer people get sick, and the sooner province can get back on the road to economic recovery. We urge the Ontario government to do all it can to make this happen.

Not doing so is the very definition of penny wise, pound foolish, and a moral failure of government.

Paid sick days save lives. Let’s get it done.

Dave Bulmer
President & CEO

Staying home when sick is one of the most effective ways to stop the spread of COVID-19 and other illnesses. Without paid sick days, Ontario’s most precarious essential workers are at even higher risk for devastating consequences.

Don’t just take our word for it. Here are 99 articles about the importance of paid sick days in Ontario.

Help spread the word by sharing on social media. Tag @AMAPCEO on Facebook and Twitter, and use the hashtag #PaidSickDaysNow.

More about AMAPCEO and our Members: Established in 1992, AMAPCEO is a bargaining agent that represents 14,000 professional and supervisory public servants, most of whom work directly for the Government of Ontario in every ministry and in a number of agencies, boards and commissions; in 130 communities throughout Ontario and in 12 cities outside Canada. We also represent employees outside the Ontario Public Service in: the Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Ontario; Health Quality Ontario; the Ontario Arts Council; Public Health Ontario; the Waypoint Mental Health Centre in Penetanguishene; and in the former Offices of the Ontario Child Advocate and the French Language Services Commissioner (now part of the Ontario Ombudsman).