OPSEU/SEFPO President Warren (Smokey) Thomas sent the following letter to Premier Doug Ford today.
April 19, 2021
Hon. Doug Ford, Premier of Ontario
Legislative Building, Queen’s Park
Toronto, ON M7A 1A1
Re OPSEU/SEFPO calling on Ford government to legislate paid sick days for all
Dear Premier Ford,
This is our third message to your office in as many days. Desperate times require extraordinary measures. If there is a time when we must communicate effectively as a province, and act swiftly as a society, it is now.
At OPSEU/SEFPO, we’ve put politics aside in the spirit of cooperation and collaboration. We understand that working together is the only way we can defeat this crisis and emerge triumphant on the other side. Name-calling and public shaming won’t resolve our current crisis. And together, we’ve made progress.
We asked your government to walk back on arbitrary police powers, and you have. We spoke out against the closure of playgrounds, and you listened. We’ve raised the alarm about Ontario’s capacity crisis, and the federal Liberals have pledged to send health care workers to help. We’ve pushed to get more needles in arms, and you lowered the age of eligibility for the AstraZeneca vaccine to 40.
All of this marks significant progress. However, we’ve now reached a crucial moment in the fight against this pandemic.
The path to recovery requires smart decisions and legislating paid sick days is a smart decision. Paid sick days save lives. The experts all agree, including Toronto’s chief medical officer of health, that paid sick leave is an essential protection for workers on the front lines of the pandemic – especially those in low-wage and precarious positions with little to no job security.
Everyone needs paid sick days. They keep workers, and our communities, safer. And what’s more, the vast majority of Ontarians support legislated paid sick days for all. What we need now, is political leadership. You’ve said no in the past, but I am sure you can see that the state of the province today requires a different response.
As the case numbers continue to rise, firmer action is needed. Indecision won’t save lives – vaccines and paid sick days will. The public, and Ontario’s public sector workers, are watching closely. Unless repealed, Bill 124’s wage cap would mean that public sector workers can’t even negotiate more sick days, without taking a further cut to their wages. These are the same front line workers you’ve repeatedly held up as heroes throughout the pandemic.
Well Premier, heroes deserve respect and dignity. At the very minimum, they need paid sick days. That does not just go for unionized workers, non-unionized workers need paid sick days too. That’s the best way they can protect themselves while earning a living, and protect the public as well. Last month, more than 600 workers at Amazon in Brampton got COVID-19, but very few cases were reported. How much safer would we all be, Amazon workers, their families, and the public, if these workers had been allowed to take paid sick days? We can’t force workers to decide between making a living and living at all.
Premier, you know what the right decision is here. At least for the duration of the pandemic, legislate paid sick days and protect this province, its workers, and their families. It’s your chance to take leadership across the country and light the way for all the provinces and territories to follow. Legislate paid sick days now. Cast ideology aside and pivot as needed. Only then are we in it all together, but more importantly, we will be out of all this together, faster.
Warren (Smokey) Thomas
Hon. Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health
Dr. David Williams, Chief Medical Officer of Health