Dear Premier Ball and government,
As we move through the Covid-19 pandemic, two issues have become obvious over the past 11 weeks. If we are to stop the spread of the Covid-19 virus then it is critical for families and individuals to stay home and self-isolate. The second issue is, we now understand and recognize the importance of those who work in the health care field and those who we rely on for essential services; be they grocery clerks, pharmacy staff, women’s shelter support staff, cleaning staff, gas station workers, food production workers, or more.
The Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour (NLFL) is writing you with straightforward requests. The most effective and appropriate way to recognize the value of the essential workers, who have helped keep our economy moving and society safe, is to modernize the Labour Standards Act. The province needs to ensure that all workers have access to paid sick leave, paid emergency days, a fair and decent wage, and should they contract the virus, a guarantee that they will automatically be entitled to workers’ compensation.
All workers should have access to 7 paid sick days and 14 additional emergency days, if required due to a health pandemic or other emergency situations. No worker should fear losing their job as a result of getting ill or having to take care of a family member.
In light of COVID-19, we believe it is time to introduce changes in workers’ compensation legislation. As you know in certain job categories, such as a firefighter, some illnesses are presumed to be work related. These workers do not have to wonder whether their claims for compensation will be accepted. We are calling on the province to recognize that any essential workers sick with COVID-19, it should be presumed to be work-related.
Frankly, we believe the province needs to re-visit its minimum wage provisions and commit to a path to $15 an hour over the coming 2 years. The recent cash outlay from the Federal government was clearly intended to improve the salaries of low-income essential workers. A single payout does not do justice to the work these essential workers provide.
Vulnerable workers in Newfoundland & Labrador (NL) need your attention. If we have learned anything – it is that they have kept our people safe and healthy in many ways – at great risk. Our greatest thanks to them would be to ensure they have decent wages and benefits, and strong protection under our labour and health and safety laws. All workers deserve this.
The province must also address the deplorable gender and income inequities that exist in our province.
Our Federation commits to working with you in discussions with the Federal government; on issues like equality, universal pharmacare and childcare. We know you support these issues, as we do, and that you understand the benefits to our economy and society by having these programs in place, and adequately funded with increased transfers by the federal government.
We firmly believe that an economy that works for all people in NL is possible.
Premier Ball, we appreciate it when you say you have worker’s backs. It is time the province makes the necessary changes which we have outlined in this letter. Doing so will prove to the workers, who are looking to you, that their Government really does have their backs.
President, Newfoundland & Labrador Federation of Labour
Thursday, May 14th, 2020