St. John’s, NL – In advance of the federal, provincial and territorial labour Ministers’ March meeting, the Newfoundland and Labrador Federation of Labour (NLFL) is joining provincial and territorial Federations of Labour across Canada today; in demanding that provincial and territorial governments guarantee seamless access to universal, permanent and adequate employer-paid sick days for all workers.

More than half of all Canadian workers have no access to paid sick leave.  When they’re sick, they face an impossible choice between making ends meet and staying home to protect public health and get better.  It’s a decision nobody should have to make.

The gaps in coverage are huge, and especially among low-wage workers.  NLFL President Mary Shortall states that for the 50,000 low-waged workers in Newfoundland & Labrador (NL), many who do essential work, the absence of paid sick days could in fact jeopardize public health.  Shortall says there is an urgent need for immediate government action, especially with new, highly-contagious variants now spreading through the population.  “It’s a public health imperative that sick workers stay home from work, and not just during the pandemic,” says Shortall.  “Illnesses like influenza cause thousands of hospitalizations and deaths in Canada every year.  By curbing the spread of infectious diseases, employer-paid sick days would protect public health while increasing workplace productivity, offering more stable income for workers and reducing health costs for governments.”

While the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB) is a small step forward, it falls far short of what is needed.  It’s temporary by design and restricted to COVID-related illness. It interrupts workers’ income, making them apply and then wait for the benefit to arrive. And the benefit itself only replaces a fraction of lost pay for many workers.  While this new benefit helps, it isn’t universal and permanent paid sick leave.

The NLFL agrees that initially, some level of government support may be needed to offset costs for small and medium-sized businesses that have been severely affected by the pandemic.  But the ultimate goal, in every province and territory, must be to ensure that every worker knows that when they are sick, they will not pay a financial penalty for doing the right thing and staying home to protect public health.

Public support for employer-paid sick days is strong throughout Canada.  Shortall says the need has never been more apparent or more urgent.  The NLFL has been advocating for 7 days paid sick leave and 14 days emergency paid days since the early days of COVID-19. “We join with all provincial and territorial Federations of Labour today, to call on the soon to be announced, newly elected NL Labour Minister to join with Canada’s Labour Ministers; and prioritize the implementation of universal, permanent and adequate employer-paid sick leave for all workers now, “concludes Shortall.  “It really is a matter of life and death.”