Providing paid sick days is what leadership does

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The term “jumping on the bandwagon” typically has a bad rap. But, with a host of employers following OPSEU/SEFPO’s lead and offering more paid sick days to staff, this is a bandwagon every employer should get on.

For more than a year, our union – along with our labour and community allies – has been calling for a provincial paid sick days program. The scientists and health experts agree with us that paid sick days save lives. And while we’re pleased to see the Ford government change course, we know that three paid sick days still isn’t enough.

We need employers to step up to the plate too; to help protect front line workers and keep Ontario safe – especially those in confined, crowded and close-contact workplaces with the highest risks.

Nobody should have to go to work sick.

That’s why earlier this month, OPSEU/SEFPO increased our internal staff sick days by 40 per cent – allowing all staff, including those in temporary positions, to access 10 fully paid sick days.

As a union, it’s our job to demand better working conditions for our members. But we’re also an employer with a duty to uphold those principles in our own house too.

At OPSEU/SEFPO, we lead by example. We pride ourselves as change-makers, and we don’t just talk, we take action. It’s fundamental to our leadership philosophy, and it has worked.

Within days of our union’s decision, Sunnybrook Health Sciences Centre announced it too would be offering additional paid sick days to staff. And since then, the University Health Network (UHN) and Mt. Sinai hospitals have jumped on the bandwagon.

That is what leadership does.

Leadership is about forging a new path and establishing a new, and better, normal. It’s no easy task, but it’s necessary – especially in times like these. That’s why we’re pleased to see these hospital employers following our lead and taking the health of frontline workers seriously.

It may be easier to do the bare minimum and to wait for others to pick up the slack (or the tab), but that gets us nowhere. With COVID-19, we all need to pull our weight to overcome this crisis, and employers have an especially important role to play in shouldering some of the burden.

Some will say that employers have already faced too many challenges; that they simply can’t afford this. I can assure you that workplace closures – like the ones we’ve seen in private sector workplaces like Amazon warehouses – cost a heck of a lot more than a few sick days.

They say an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and it’s true.

When staff stay home, they help stop the spread of COVID-19, and that saves lives and dollars too. No one has sacrificed more than front line workers, and our economic recovery depends on their health. Employers can support our recovery, by encouraging folks to stay home. The best way to do that is to pay them.

So, if Ontario’s largest employers want to be part of the solution – if they want to get to the other side of this crisis quicker – then it’s time for leadership.

It’s time to offer more paid sick days.

It’s time to jump on the bandwagon.

In Solidarity,

Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida
OPSEU/SEFPO First Vice-President/Treasurer
@OPSEUEddy
facebook.com/OPSEUEddy 

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