Labour Minister Harry Bains said B.C. is looking at “next steps” but not did explicitly confirm that the province will launch its own paid sick leave program.
Despite no funding in the provincial budget, B.C. is under growing pressure to create a paid sick leave program to prevent people going into work and unknowingly spreading COVID-19.
The provinces were looking to the federal Liberals to enhance the national paid sick leave program but Monday’s budget offered no changes to the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit. Labour groups across the country have slammed the $500 a week benefit, or $450 after taxes, for anyone sick with COVID-19, as an inadequate measure that fails to replace a worker’s full wages.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford announced on Thursday that his province would develop its own paid sick leave program but offered few details about when the program will take effect, the level of sick leave benefits and how much it will cost taxpayers. Ford spoke outside his Etobicoke home as he remains in self-isolation due to a staff member testing positive for the virus.
B.C. Labour Minister Harry Bains said Wednesday the “federal government’s inaction (on enhancing the national paid sick leave program) is disappointing.”
Bains said B.C. is looking at “next steps” but not did explicitly confirm that the province will launch its own paid sick leave program.
“Now we are preparing to look at this issue ourselves and look at all avenues to find solutions so that workers don’t have to go to work when they’re sick, and that they don’t have to choose between a paycheque and going to work sick,” Bains told reporters.
The B.C. Federation of Labour, said the budget failed to ensure paid sick days which means many workers still have to make the “untenable” choice of staying home while sick or paying the bills during a pandemic.
“In this time of deadly variants and rising cases, ensuring worker safety with paid sick leave is imperative,” the federation’s president Laird Cronk said in a statement. “Paid sick leave saves lives. 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 noted that lower-income workers, who are predominantly women and people from racialized communities, have been hardest hit by the economic impacts of COVID-19 and are least likely to have the financial resources to miss work.
Finance Minister Selina Robinson said told Postmedia on Wednesday that the province had hoped the federal government “would step up and have a national program.”
Premier John Horgan has been in contact with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau advocating for an improved national sick leave program and Robinson said she’s talked about the issue with federal Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland.
“It makes sense, really for the federal government to deliver on this is since it’s a national issue,” she said, adding that the province will continue to advocate for such a program.