| Ford government threatening procedural blockades to try to block paid sick days motion
QUEEN’S PARK — For months Doug Ford and his PC MPPs have been refusing the paid sick days plan called for by countless experts and workers alongside Andrea Horwath and the Ontario NDP. But with indications growing that the government won’t be able to hold out much longer, Horwath scheduled the Opposition Day motion Wednesday afternoon to be a debate on a safety plan for essential workplaces that includes paid sick days.
But as of Wednesday morning, the Ford government is throwing up as many blockades as possible to prevent the regularly-scheduled Opposition Day Motion from going ahead. To block the debate and vote on paid sick days, the government has scheduled surprise votes on a raft of non-pandemic motions and bills.
“Today and every day more workers will face the choice between taking an unpaid sick day and being unable to put food on the table — or going to work sick with a potential case of COVID-19. Paid sick days cannot wait a second longer,” said Horwath.
“Without paid sick days, workers and their loved ones will keep pouring into Ontario’s hospitals. It is cruel and heartless to keep denying workers protections when we know it will condemn more people to get sick, and more people to die.”
On Tuesday, the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table issued a brief reiterating what Ontario must do now to end the COVID-19 nightmare Ford pushed the province into. The Science Table is calling for paid sick days, paid time off to get vaccinated, for the province to vaccinate vulnerable groups including essential workers faster, and for the province to temporarily close non-essential workplaces.
“Mr. Ford walked us into this crisis, and the same experts who warned him this is where Ontario would end up have shown us the path out — he just needs to take it.”
The NDP is also calling for paid time off for workers to get a vaccine, for non-essential workplaces to be closed temporarily, and for all affected businesses and workers to be provided with direct financial support.
The NDP’s Opposition Day motion reads as follows:
Whereas studies show that only approximately 10% of low waged essential workers have access to paid sick leave, forcing them to choose between taking unpaid time off or going into work while sick in order to pay the bills and put food on the table; and
Whereas federal sickness wage replacement programs can only be accessed if a worker contracts COVID-19 and cannot be used to cover vaccination appointments or to stay home as a precaution by a worker with symptoms of the disease; and
Whereas public health officials, including the Ford government’s own experts, have publicly advocated for the implementation of paid sick days to better protect Ontarians, especially racialized workers and communities that are disproportionately and hardest hit by the pandemic; and
Whereas workplace spread of COVID-19 has accounted for two-thirds of community outbreaks in some municipalities, largely in environments without access to paid sick leave; and
Whereas the Premier and Cabinet ignored February 2021 warnings from public health officials, Ontario’s doctors and hospitals about the about the dangers of the third wave, and waited until record numbers of infections and ICU admissions to act; and
Whereas municipal and provincial public health officials across Ontario have been clear that vaccination efforts must prioritize essential workers as they are among those most at risk of contracting the virus and often live in communities that are hardest hit;
Therefore, the Legislative Assembly calls on the Ford Government to develop an essential workplaces safety plan with adequate funding and resources to ensure all workers are offered access to the vaccine and paid time off to receive it; to provide provincially-paid sick leave for workers experiencing symptoms of or diagnosed with of COVID-19; and to provide onsite daily testing at essential workplaces as part its efforts to curb the spread of the virus.