All frontline health care workers deserve Ontario Pandemic Pay

Unifor is reiterating its demand that the Ontario government allocate funds to support all frontline health care workers.

“While we appreciate that personal support workers in some areas are eligible for either $2.00 or $3.00/hour pandemic pay, many of our COVID heroes remain excluded yet still face the same challenges,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President.

While frontline workers continue to risk exposure, many do not qualify to receive pandemic pay, despite the fact that the province has access to billions in unallocated pandemic relief funds.

Unifor recommends that the Ontario government make the following expansion to pandemic pay, retroactive to the October 1, 2020 announcement.

  1. Pandemic pay should include all frontline workers in Ontario Long-term Care Homes. Cleaners, laundry and dietary workers, rehab/activation workers, clerical workers and nurses are all on the frontline at significant personal risk. Yassin Dabeh, a 19-year-old contract cleaner, recently died of COVID-19 contracted while working in a nursing home in outbreak. He was excluded from pandemic pay.
  1. Retirement home workers, including personal support workers, should be included in pandemic pay. These workers, who generally work for for-profit employers, earn substantially less than their counterparts in the LTC sector. Retirement homes have experienced tragic outbreaks and continue to do so today.
  1. All frontline hospital workers should receive pandemic pay, including nurses, porters, cleaners and laundry workers, rehab workers, therapists, technicians and technologists, clerical workers and any others with patient contact.Hospital workers are subject to expanded redeployment legislation that could see them reassigned, even without their consent, to other hospitals and retirement homes in addition to LTC homes.
  1. All Paramedics and any other frontline EMS workers to be included in pandemic pay.

“Working through this pandemic will haunt frontline workers for years. Banking available funds that should be going to the frontline is unconscionable,” said Dias.

Unifor was the first union in Ontario to make a public demand for Pandemic Pay on April 17, 2020, with the launch of a video and online petition. The union has been steadfast in its position that any worker subject to the Emergency Orders should receive pandemic pay.