Over 160 health workers sign open letter calling on the Ontario government to legislate 10 paid sick days immediately
By Globe Newswire
As the Premier of Ontario announces a new cabinet on June 24, over 160 health workers from across the province have signed onto an open letter calling on the government to legislate at least 10 paid sick days immediately. This is especially pressing given the looming expiration of the Worker Income Protection Benefit (WIPB) at the end of July.
“We are extremely concerned that workers will experience negative health outcomes in the seventh wave if urgent action on paid sick days is not taken,” says Dr. Naheed Dosani, Health Equity Lead, Kensington Health and member of the Decent Work and Health Network. “We have to remember that racialized workers are overrepresented in low-wage jobs that lack access to paid sick days. Permanent paid sick days are a pillar of racial and health justice.”
‘Three days is not enough and it never was’
58 per cent of workers in Canada do not have paid sick days. That proportion rises to a staggering 70 per cent for workers earning less than $25,000. According to Birgit Umaigba, ICU nurse, the WIPB program is unreasonably expensive for taxpayers and inadequate as a public health measure. “Three days is not enough and it never was. There is a foolproof way to make paid sick days effective: by legislating 10 employer-paid sick days through the employment standards act.”
In addition, the WIPB can only be accessed for COVID-related reasons. Pediatrician Dr. Shazeen Suleman cautions against such limitations. She sees the cascading effects of not having paid sick days in her patients, who are children with special needs or developmental disabilities. “Without paid sick days, many parents cannot make it to medical appointments or therapy sessions and this can have a detrimental impact on the health of my patients. Most importantly, parents cannot stay home to care for their sick child if that means losing wages and being unable to pay rent or put food on the table.” The lack of access to preventive care means more families rely on emergency visits when their children’s health gets worse, she adds.
With this open letter, health workers are reminding the province that temporary measures are not the permanent solution needed to close gaps in health inequity and prevent future pandemics. “Recovery for our economy and regeneration of our communities should be a priority for this government and it should factor in the health of workers that bore the brunt of the pandemic,” says Dr. Dosani, “Legislating 10 permanent paid sick days should be the first order of business for the incoming Ministers of Health and Labour, and the Premier.”