Advocates are calling upon the provincial government to invest in a paid sick leave policy for British Columbians after its newly released budget failed to include one.
“In this time of variants and rising cases, ensuring worker safety with paid sick leave is imperative,” said president Laird Cronk of the British Columbia Federation of Labour, representing more than 500,000 employees in both the public and private sector.
Its members include teachers, workers in health care, community social services, trades and others employed in B.C.
“We will continue to advocate for the over half of B.C. workers and nearly 90 per cent of low-wage workers that don’t have paid leave and are at higher risk of exposure,” Cronk said.
Budget 2021, released Tuesday (April 20), pledged a total of $800 million in investments to help B.C. businesses regain their footing following the COVID-19 pandemic.
It included $100 million in tourism funding to help attractions better market themselves and retool to welcome visitors once travel bans are lifted.
What about the low-income workers who staff these sites? The president is asking.
“For that recovery to be equitable, for it to be meaningful to working people, requires supports and re-hiring guarantees for workers, not just business,” Cronk said.
He said low-income workers, a majority of whom are women, are being ”hit hard” by COVID-19 – they are also some of the least likely to have the financial resources to miss work.
Currently, the province makes workers eligible for up to three days of unpaid leave each year for personal illness or injury.
“The budget fails to ensure paid sick days and remove the untenable decision for workers between staying home sick and paying the bills during a pandemic,” Cronk said.
Leftover from the budget is $8 billion in contingencies – which B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson said Tuesday could be used to address any immediate needs that arise during the pandemic.
The federation is urging the province to use some of those funds to deliver on paid sick days.
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