‘Sure it needs to be changed’: Ford says province working on paid sick day program
Posted January 18, 2021 9:13 am.
Last Updated January 18, 2021 4:02 pm.
With the Toronto Board of Health considering recommendations from the city’s top doctor with regards to paid sick days, Ontario’s Premier is open to the idea of increasing wages.
Chief medical officer of health Dr. Eileen De Villa says the pandemic has proven that paid sick leave is a necessity to help protect workers, workplaces, and the community.
De Villa is requesting that city council and the board put increased pressure on the province to make it mandatory that employers provide workers with at least five paid sick days after three months of employment and 10 days of paid sick leave during a health emergency like the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Workers without paid sick leave, particularly low-wage, essential frontline workers, continue to feel financial pressure to work even when ill. In acknowledgment of the serious public health risk posed by workplace transmission, the Toronto Board of Health called on the Province in May of 2020 to implement a program that would ensure workers had access to paid sick leave,” the City said in a statement.
Ford, meanwhile, says if the system isn’t working, it’s possible a change is in order.
“If people don’t feel they’re getting it quick enough, which I have brought to the attention of the Prime Minister and the Deputy Prime Minister, then we need to change the program,” he said.
“If they need to top it up a little more because $500 a week isn’t feasible, then we change it. There is no reason for the province to jump in there when less than 27 percent of the overall program hasn’t been taken up.”
“Does it need to be changed? Sure it needs to be changed,” the Premier added.
At Toronto’s COVID-19 briefing, Mayor John Tory said he “respectfully disagrees” with the Premier, revealing that he sat down with Ford on Sunday to discuss the matter.
“It is going to require some provincial intervention,” Tory said. “Something like that, that involves both governments [federal and provincial] is going to be the answer.”
“…It’s time for it to happen. We have been discussing this. I can’t even count how many times I have sat here on my own and on behalf of other mayors and said this is an urgent issue that is causing people to go to work sick. It’s not right and we should fix it,” Tory added.
In September, Ottawa launched the ‘Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit‘, which provides $500 per week, for up two weeks.
In a recent report, De Villa found that the benefit does not provide enough job security for any worker who needs to use it.
Some critics of Ontario’s new COVID restrictions say they don’t solve the 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 hasn’t budged when it comes to increasing sick pay.
Without it, Fred Hahn, president of CUPE Ontario, says 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.”
The city says only 42 percent of working Canadians currently have access to paid sick leave, and among low-wage and front-line workers, the number is estimated to be only 10 percent.