Over the weekend, the Ontario government announced a $4 per hour pandemic pay increase for certain workers who are in front-line jobs and potentially exposed to COVID-19.
We commend Premier Ford and Prime Minister Trudeau for this gesture that recognizes the risks many of our members on the front-lines are taking and the job they are doing.
OPSEU is following up with the government on who will receive this pay increase, but here is what we know so far about the two-fold criteria being used to decide who will receive it. It applies to:
- People in congregated settings
- Front line employees working with vulnerable people
A small number of you have contacted us to inquire whether you will receive the pay increase or whether OPSEU is working to ensure that you can be included. It is important to understand that the criteria for qualifying for the government’s pandemic pay was designed by the government, it is not OPSEU’s criteria.
We are making every effort to advocate for fairness in this initiative, but the reality is that not every front-line worker will meet the government’s two-fold criteria.
OPSEU’s priority throughout this pandemic has been to ensure safety as well as employment for our members and care for our clients.
Many employers have been supportive and cooperative, others we have been forced to take action against by publicly shaming them. We have made great strides in making employers do what is necessary to ensure safety of our members and continuity of service. That will continue to be our focus.
It’s also important to remember that the pandemic does not give us the ability to open up collective agreements to increase wages. We are not in bargaining. Equally, we would not want the government, as advised by some, to have the ability to justify reducing the pay of those workers not deemed essential, or who have been sent home, by an equivalent $4 to make up for the pay increase.
We understand your concerns and thank you for your ongoing support to get through this crisis. I am proud of our union and your work. We are clearly demonstrating that quality public services should be about people, not profit. Rest assured that your work is appreciated and will pay future dividends. The public gets it and they will not forget it. We will ensure that.
We are all in this together and we will come out of this pandemic stronger than we have ever been. All of Ontario is proud of you.
President Warren (Smokey) Thomas