As the COVID-19 pandemic disrupts and shuts down New Brunswick’s economy, the labour movement is calling on the provincial and federal governments to move urgently to guarantee paid, protected sick leave and other income supports for all workers.
The New Brunswick Federation of Labour (NBFL) is outlining five concrete actions needed immediately to ensure workers can follow public health advice and have the necessary supports to meet their needs, as the economic pressures on workers increase.
“Paid sick leave, and other income supports to workers, will help slow the spread of infection,” said Daniel Legere, President of the NBFL. “The pandemic can make existing inequities worse. But it doesn’t need to. Our collective response needs to take the choice of working sick to pay the bills off the table for any worker.”
To support workers, the NBFL is specifically calling for:
1. Legislated changes to the Employment Standards Act to secure immediate and retroactive job protection for workers who take sick leave, including workers that self-isolate, or are quarantined;
2. Provision of paid sick leave for all workers, including part-time and casual workers, temporary foreign workers and migrant workers, throughout the duration of isolation or quarantine;
3. Access to income supports/transfers for workers that fall outside of current definitions of employees, including independent contractors and the self-employed;
4. Immediate waiving of any requirement for doctor’s notes for any worker;
5. Enhancement of Employment Insurance (EI) benefits during the crisis to at least 75% of insurable income, reduction of barriers to access EI, and allocation of extra support staff at Service Canada to help smoothly administer the access to EI.
The NBFL continues to call for proactive guidance from government to employers on their duties and obligations to perform risk assessments and keep workplaces safe.
The union movement is taking concrete measures to stop the spread of COVID-19, such as:
1. Replacing face-to-face meetings with conference calls;
2. Limiting access to and/or closing offices;
3. Postponing convention, conferences and educational workshops;
4. Suspending language in public sector collective agreements , allowing public sector workers to be redirected where they are most needed.
Let us all remember that the best way to avoid the spread of COVID-19 is social isolation and frequent hand washing.
The New Brunswick Federation of Labour is the central voice of organized labour in the province. We represent over 35,000 workers from every sector of the economy and from every community in the province.
For information, please contact:
Daniel Legere, President
(506) 857-2125 / (506) 381-8969