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April 23, 2021

Frontline workers are exhausted, frustrated, and burnt out. The rest of the province is angry, invigorated, and picking up their fight to demand justice for the workers of Ontario.

The Ontario Federation of Labour and its affiliates are escalating our individual and collective actions.

Equitable strategy

Together, we demand the legislation of permanent paid sick days for all workers across the province. Our calls have been echoed by public health experts, medical specialists, politicians, and the public at large. The message to government is clear. We need sick days – now – before more workers, their community, and our healthcare system are even more impacted by the spread and scourge of COVID-19.

Paid sick days are a human rights issue. To continue to deny paid sick days is a racial, gender, disability and economic justice issue.

More than half of Canadians with disabilities are struggling to make ends meet. In August, a Statistics Canada survey of people with disabilities revealed 44 per cent of respondents were concerned about how to pay for groceries. And that was halfway through the pandemic.

Racialized, migrant, Indigenous and low-wage workers are disproportionately represented in precarious workplaces with no access to sick leave. The result has been a damning and alarming connection between COVID-19 rates of racialized and low-wage workers. In September 2020, racialized workers made up 83 per cent of reported COVID-19 cases in Toronto.

In addition to accelerated rapid testing in the workplace, we demand an equitable vaccine strategy that prioritizes essential, frontline workers who opt for a shot. If workers are on the front lines of the pandemic, it only makes sense they would be at the front of the line for a vaccine. It’s only fair they get paid in the process.  

Workers’ rights

The Ministry of Labour claims they are ramping up their inspection capacity. The labour movement is simultaneously ramping up workers’ education on their three fundamental rights in the workplace:

The right to participate such as through joint health and safety committee involvements;
The right to know about the hazards they do and might face; and
The right to refuse unsafe work.

We are urging workers to exercise their rights. Workers should not and will not be afraid to use the rights the labour movement fought so hard to achieve. Every worker has a right to a safe workplace – it’s the law.

Day of Mourning

The Day of Mourning for injured, sick and killed workers is next week. We ask that all labour affiliates and their members wear black on April 28 to mourn those who have died. And to take pause.

Countless workers have died from the spread of COVID-19, with more than half occurring in the first three months of 2021.

One death is too many. We demand this government take action before more workers die. The OFL has challenged the government to commit to a suite of demands to improve worker health and safety, and to do so by April 28.

As long as Doug Ford’s Conservative government continues to fail to protect workers, we will continue to escalate our collective actions.

As leaders of organized labour in Ontario, we also recognize the critical resistance being mounted by community and non-unionized workers. We are united in solidarity and we are committed to taking up this fight together.

This pandemic is the most dire crisis we will likely ever face in our labour movement. And we as leaders have a responsibility to continue to step up and speak out for our members, but also for the unorganized, precarious workers who deserve protection too.

We will not back down until all workers are protected.

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