Ontario conservatives put profits ahead of workers with just three paid sick days

April 28, 2021 – 12:00 AM

TORONTO – Following today’s provincial announcement, Unifor is once again asking the Ontario government to introduce permanent, employer-paid sick leave that meets the needs of workers.

“What Minister McNaughton’s announcement shows is that the conservatives are willing to go to great lengths to protect pandemic profits for big business, while  ignoring the solutions that workers and their unions have proposed repeatedly,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “Hopefully, this new program will help fill some gaps, and make it simpler to get time off for vaccinations, but it’s a long way from the permanent paid sick leave that workers still need.”

Ministers McNaughton and Bethlenfalvy presided over an unclear announcement today on COVID-related leave. McNaughton announced the provinces’ intention to table legislation to create new three paid days for COVID related reasons including vaccination leave, testing, sick days and COVID related mental health.

“Ontario is leading the country in COVID cases and hospitalization during this deadly third wave. It’s disturbing to see McNaughton self-congratulate his government and Premier Ford for taking this small action so late into this devastating pandemic,” said Naureen Rizvi, Unifor Ontario Regional Director. “It took thousands of deaths, workplace outbreaks, protest and outrage from workers and medical professionals to finally force the conservatives to come to this point. This isn’t their first proposal on sick leave, and we don’t accept that it will be their final, either.”

In addition to the new three days of leave, the Ministers also referenced a doubling of the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB) that is not yet finalized, repeating the Premier’s tactic of shifting accountability for provincial labour law to the federal government.

“It’s irresponsible to add to the confusion around sick leave and COVID benefits by making announcements on commitments that simply aren’t accurate. Ministers should present clear and credible information, not add confusion and continue to deflect away from the province’s own inaction,” continued Dias.

Three days of sick leave is not sufficient for COVID illness or recovery, and does not meet the needs of workers who could face a repeated need to seek COVID testing or self-isolate.

Unifor advocates for universal paid sick days to be enshrined in labour law in Ontario that includes:

  • 7 permanent paid sick days;
  • 14 additional paid sick days during a declared public health emergency;
  • Universality (i.e. it applies to all workers, regardless of status);
  • A prohibition on sick notes;
  • Flexible (i.e. not just for short-term illness; more akin to “personal emergency” days);
  • Employer-paid;
  • No administrative burden.

Unifor has advocated for employer-paid sick leave since the earliest days of the pandemic in March 2020. Members in Ontario engaged Ministers and MPPS in a targeted lobbying campaign on this and other issues in advance of the 2021 provincial budget. In the coming week, the union will continue to escalate this call for true paid sick days with its member-driven digital campaign and a series of “phone zap” calling actions in the coming days