This year, on the Day of Mourning, Wednesday April 28th, let’s take a moment to think about the human cost of Covid-19 and the impact it is having on workers.
“Over the past year, we have witnessed how vulnerable workers are,” says Daniel Legere, President of the New Brunswick Federation of Labour. “This pandemic has shown us the gaps in workplace protections and exposed employers who chose to put profits over people.”
Evidence from across the country shows us that the virus is spreading at work, not only in health care settings but also in factories, meat works, warehouses, schools, offices, transportation and other sectors. Workers have had to fight for access to appropriate, effective protective equipment, COVID-safe practices at work, paid sick leave and respect for their basic health and safety rights.
These problems existed before the pandemic, nonetheless. This has led to too many preventable deaths. Every year, approximately 1,000 Canadian workers die because of a workplace injury or an exposure that happened at work. In 2020, Worldwide, about 2.7 million workers lose their lives at work every year.
“Over the past year, New Brunswick workers have kept food on our tables, essential goods in our cupboards, taught our children, cared for our loved ones and kept critical institutions running,” said Legere. “They have done all of this, at serious risk and sometimes great cost to their own health and safety. The failure of government to prioritize paid sick leave for workers puts everyone at risk and is likely prolonging and deepening the impacts of the pandemic.”
Without access to protected, paid sick days, workers have been forced to choose between going to work sick, or not getting paid, and in some cases losing their jobs. An estimated 58 percent of Canadian workers don’t have access to paid sick leave through their employers, according to a report by the Decent Work and Health Network. That number rises to 70 percent among people making less than $25,000 a year. The New Brunswick Federation of Labour is calling on the provincial government to immediately introduce paid sick leave to ensure workers aren’t required to go to work sick.
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