UFCW 1518 Disappointed in BC Government’s Minimal Paid Sick Leave Announcement

UFCW 1518 is disappointed in the minimal paid sick day provisions announced today by the government of British Columbia.

Premier John Horgan and Labour Minister Harry Bains announced that employers will now be required to cover three paid sick days at full pay.

The paid sick days program is temporary and applies to full-time and part-time workers, but not to contract or gig workers. The government has committed to creating a permanent paid sick leave program beginning in January 2022 but has not stated how many days it will apply for and what percent of wages it will cover.

“While this program will provide an immediate benefit for some workers who don’t currently have paid sick days, it doesn’t go far enough,” said UFCW 1518 President Kim Novak. “After 15 months of the pandemic, the federal and provincial governments are doing the bare minimum, especially for those who are working on the front lines.”

UFCW 1518, labour activists, medical professionals, and front-line workers have been calling for a universal paid sick leave plan for months. Research shows that paid sick leave can reduce COVID-19 cases up to 50 percent.

The federal government created the Canada Sickness Recovery Benefit (CSRB) in August 2020 to provide some paid sick leave options for all workers. However, workers have reported multiple problems with the program including insufficient coverage and delays in benefit payouts.

Recently, a poultry production facility in Surrey, BC shut down for 10 days due to a COVID-19 outbreak. Over 70 percent of the workers at that facility had been vaccinated against COVID-19, showing the devastating impact when workers are forced to choose between a paycheque and their health.

UFCW 1518 will continue to call on the provincial and federal governments to create permanent paid sick days and a paid sick leave plan that gives all workers adequate time off to recover from illness and prevent the spread of COVID-19.