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Calls grow louder for province to address lack of paid sick days

Last Updated Jan 12, 2021 at 10:47 pm EDT

Critics of Ontario’s new COVID control measures say they don’t solve systemic problems that are making essential workplaces a leading source of infection.

The province is promising to increase testing in manufacturing, schools and long-term care homes. But it is not budging on increasing sick pay.

Without it, Fred Hahn, president of CUPE Ontario, tells 680 NEWS the stay-at-home order will fail to drive down the virus.

“It’s not that people aren’t following the recommended advice because they don’t think it’s a good idea,” Hahn said. “It’s because they need help to do it. Paid sick time is essential to that.”

Pressure has been mounting on the government to do more to help essential workers with symptoms, but also rent to pay and groceries to buy.

Hahn said some people simply cannot afford to stay home, noting most long-term care workers are considered part-time.

“When they’re sick, they don’t get paid. They still have a family to support,” Hahn said. “I’m talking about unionized members in the public sector, never mind folks in the private sector, never mind grocery store workers, never mind people who are working in these factories and other places where we understand workplace spread is a problem.”

Even the government’s own health officials acknowledged the absence of additional paid sick leave is a huge hole in what was announced.

“That is a very important barrier that needs to be addressed,” said Dr. Barbara Yaffe Ontario’s associate chief medical officer of health. “People need to be supported to do the right thing … they may be worried about being evicted from their home if they can’t pay the rent.”

The premier’s office said Tuesday night the province will continue to explore eviction protections in the coming days.