(Toronto) – The Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) is increasingly dismayed with the Ford government’s lack of targeted action to stop the surge of COVID-19 currently running rampant in Peel, and across Ontario. The OFL is once again calling for the immediate provision of paid sick days, pandemic pay premiums for all essential workers, guaranteed access to required PPE, targeted testing and the public disclosure of workplaces currently experiencing outbreaks.
Since the onset of this pandemic, the OFL has called on the Ford government to take immediate action to stop the spread of COVID-19 across Ontario. Yet, the Ford government continually and routinely fails to act on those recommendations.
“We have put forward a suite of recommendations, on numerous occasions, that the Ford government must implement to keep workers safe and stop the spread of COVID-19, and time and time again, they ignore our calls,” said OFL President Patty Coates. “Do we need to hire Doug Ford friendly Conservative lobbyists, like multi-national corporation Walmart did – to get this government’s attention?”
Among the list of recommendations that labour advocates have called for is access to paid sick days, for every worker in Ontario. The OFL is calling on the Ford government to immediately reverse their callous decision to remove paid sick days from Ontario workers, a move they made almost immediately upon forming government.
This week, the OFL joined with workers’ advocacy group, Warehouse Workers Centre (WWC), to echo those demands – calling for the following immediate actions:
- Pandemic pay: The OFL and the WWC demand that all workers receive pandemic pay by immediately raising the minimum wage and making pay premiums permanent.
- Health and safety in the workplace: The OFL and the WWC demand that all employers implement the necessary safety precautions to ensure that workers are safe from COVID-19. Employers must respond to the needs of workers, including access to PPE, physical distancing, staggered shift and break times.
- Province-wide paid sick days: The OFL, the WWC and numerous worker advocates call on the Ontario government to legislate in the Employment Standards Act the provision of at least seven paid days of emergency leave on a permanent basis, and additional 14 days of paid emergency leave during public health emergencies. In addition, the paid emergency leave must be available to all workers regardless of employment status, immigration status, or workplace size, and the leave must cover personal sickness, injury, or emergency, as well as family emergencies and responsibilities.
- Better access to COVID-19 testing: We need greater access to COVID-19 testing amongst essential workers in warehousing, logistics and e-commerce. Employers must provide paid leave to workers who require testing.
- Disclose the names of workplaces experiencing COVID-19 outbreaks: Access to information is critical. Workers and the community at large deserve to know where active COVID-19 outbreaks are occurring in workplaces, in their communities. The Government must immediately instruct Public Health Ontario to release the names and locations of workplace outbreaks so workers, adjacent businesses that service those workplaces, and the public are informed and can take action to stay safe.
On the issue of the disclosure of workplace outbreaks, recent data from Peel Region suggests that manufacturing and industrial facilities account for 34 per cent of workplace outbreaks, while retail and food processing make up 14 per cent and 10 per cent respectively.
Even former Conservative leader and current Mayor of Brampton Patrick Brown agrees.
Mayor Brown supports identifying the locations of workplace outbreaks, suggesting ‘transparency’ is critical to helping curb the spread. Further, Brown has also identified the need to provide workers with access to ‘better sick benefits,’ so they can stay home when they are sick – as another immediate and needed measure.
It doesn’t stop there, Dr. Lawrence Loh, Medical Officer of Health for the Region of Peel said at a recent news conference: “In protecting workers, we know that the absence of worker protections and paid sick leave does result in outbreaks because, people will show up because they’re choosing between their livelihood and their lives.”
“The message to Ford is quite simple. We are done with the tough talk, the time for action is now,” said Coates. “With medical professionals and former Conservative leaders calling for transparency and paid sick days for workers in Ontario – why does Doug Ford still remain reticent to provide both? We can’t wait for the Premier to continue to ‘dance’ around the issue, we need action, now.”
The Ontario Federation of Labour represents 54 unions and one million workers in Ontario. For information, visit www.OFL.ca and follow @OFLabour on Facebook and Twitter.