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OPINION: We need to protect workers

The Henry Hype

I think if the COVID-19 pandemic has shown us anything, it’s that we need paid sick days.  

Now before you go writing me an email or furiously typing away in the comment section, hear me out.  

The rapid spread of the coronavirus showed us that a chunk of essential workers are those who hold part-time jobs.   

If their place of work closed down, the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) was there to help most and they were able to pay their bills. When the province started reopening, maybe too quickly, they went back on relying on the money they get that way.   

But, they’re also taking a risk of being exposed to the coronavirus.   

If someone in this position is exposed to the virus, they now have the difficult decision to take unpaid time off work or continue to go in because they need the money. That is a horrible position for someone to be in.  

I know when I was working in retail, I went into the store a number of times when I was clearly sick because I needed the money. That, obviously, wasn’t during a global pandemic but it still illustrates my point.  

The province did introduce COVID-19 leave last year. As of March 5, 2020, all employees who have to quarantine due to the coronavirus were eligible for 14 days of unpaid leave. We can take it but we still won’t get paid for it.  

I strongly think our province needs to do more to protect workers.  

Although I know it won’t go anywhere, I was pleasantly surprised when the NDP called on the UCP government to introduce legislation to make changes to the employment standards code, which would include 10 paid sick days.  

It wouldn’t have mattered which party brought it up first, I 100 per cent would get behind it.  

It was a bit disheartening when Premier Jason Kenney was asked about paid sick days during a May 19 press conference and said he wouldn’t introduce ‘job killing policy.’  

His full response to the question was as followed: “The best way to help workers is to ensure that they have a job. Unemployed people don’t benefit from sick pay or any kind of pay. We were elected to address the job crisis in this province, it was worsened by the global economic collapse and the energy (crisis) collapse, our focus is on job creation and economic recovery. We have folks here from the chambers of commerce, if any of them have a view about whether they believe job creators could carry massive additional costs imposed on them by the government, they’re welcome to comment on that, but I’ll just say that we’re not going to adopt job killing policies that would force further layoffs because of additional costs at a time of economic crisis.”  

Considering that Prince Edward Island and Quebec are the only provinces to have paid sick leave throughout the entire country, I think we need to do more to protect workers.   

Robynne Henry, Bonnyville Nouvelle

Robynne Henry

About the Author: Robynne Henry

Reporter for the Bonnyville Nouvelle
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