Toronto – OPSEU/SEFPO President Warren (Smokey) Thomas sent the following Open Letter calling on Premier Ford to do the right thing and implement a simple, seamless and speedy paid sick days program for Ontario’s workers.
With hospitals bursting at the seams, people falling ill and dying in record numbers, Thomas says time’s up for a Made-in-Ontario plan that partners with the federal government – one that ensures all workers get the paid sick days they need, now.
April 28, 2021
Hon. Doug Ford, Premier of Ontario
Legislative Building, Queen’s Park
Toronto, ON M7A 1A1
Re Ontario needs a simple, seamless and speedy paid sick days program
Dear Premier Ford,
At the time the pandemic began, we had many questions but no answers. Now, more than a year later, we have some clear answers; we know that masks, social distancing and vaccines work. And so will paid sick days.
This isn’t just the union talking. Ontario’s Science Advisory Table has been clear with their advice. Paid sick days mean workers – many of them in close-contact and crowded workplaces, like factories and warehouses – can afford to stay home and keep themselves, their families and their communities safe. At a time when we are being hit by the third wave of COVID19, Ontario needs that safety and protection more desperately than ever.
Yet, federal and provincial governments continue to dance around the issue, embroiled in a tortuous tango of “whose job is it anyway,” deflecting or coming up with complicated schemes, while Ontarians keep getting infected, getting sick, and dying in record numbers.
Enough with deflection, Premier Ford. This back-and-forth needs to stop. The time for talk is over.
We need a program for workers that starts in Ontario. Your government can set the national standard with a plan that is simple, seamless, and speedy.
Simple. When a worker experiences symptoms, they should not have to deal with two levels of government, sort through programs, or file complicated forms online. They should inform their employer and stay home, taking care of themselves and keeping us all safer. The employer should pay upfront and get expeditiously reimbursed by the provincial government.
Seamless. When a worker takes paid sick days at work, they should be automatically registered for federal benefits. If the sick worker’s illness or isolation period extends past a few days, a buffed-up Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit could start to flow from the feds for the longer-term.
Speedy. Workers take sick time off when they need it. Their employers should deal directly with government. There’s no need to miss extended periods of work to qualify, no bureaucratic hoops to jump through, no doctor’s notes, and no waiting weeks to get paid.
Even Ontario’s business community is open to a plan that sees employers pay upfront and get reimbursed by the province. Because, like all of us, they want to see the end of the pandemic once and for all, and they recognize that paid sick days are a big part of the solution.
After an emotional change-of-heart moment on live TV, you promised Ontarians the best sick leave program anywhere in North America. But the best program isn’t riding shotgun on the federal government’s imperfect and incomplete program. It’s about creating a Made-in-Ontario plan that partners with the feds.
It’s about building up our capacity and getting help to those who need it in the most simple, seamless and speedy way. It’s about getting the job done, now.
Beyond the pandemic, there will be more work to do.
Because COVID-19 or not, people cannot be expected to go to work when they’re sick. We’ll need a long-term plan. If there’s any silver lining to our current situation, perhaps it has sparked important conversations about how we build a better and safer Ontario for the future.
Ontario’s labour unions have a role to play too. And so do unionized employers. Because it’s our job to negotiate strong and solid Collective Agreements with paid sick leave for members and employees. We have to do better. We must.
But for now, let’s focus on the obvious solution to the COVID crisis: paid sick days for all Ontario workers. And let’s make it speedy, seamless and simple.
Warren (Smokey) Thomas
Hon. Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health
Hon. Monte McNaughton, Minister of Labour, Training and Skills Development
Dr. David Williams, Chief Medical Officer of Health
For more information: Warren (Smokey) Thomas, 613-329-1931