Months after the coronavirus was declared a global health pandemic, provinces and territories are well into their economic recovery plans. Reopening efforts were introduced in some parts of Canada as early as April 2020 by slowly lifting the restrictions put in place to curb the spread of COVID-19. By June, several regional health agencies across Canada released social distancing and face covering guidelines in preparation of the gradual reopening of businesses and public spaces.
While governments focus on reopening the economy, and with a vaccine still not available, workers are going back to work and need additional protections to protect their health and safety on the job. The government has unveiled several supports, such as the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy (CEWS) and the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). But these programs only begin to address some of the issues that front-line workers are facing. As we learn more about this global pandemic, we must look to the government to provide supports and benefits that specifically target Canadians in need and help our entire economy recover from the financial impacts of COVID-19.
The CEWS was introduced to help employers cover 75 percent of an employee’s earnings. However, CEWS depends on the employer’s voluntary participation in the program. It does not prevent employers from temporarily closing, nor does it encourage businesses to operate at their full capacity and call all employees back to work. As such, many workers will continue to face economic uncertainty.
UFCW Canada is therefore calling on the federal government to subsidize 100 percent of an employee’s earnings for all waged or salaried workers in Canada, including part-time, contract, gig economy, and self-employed workers, up to $100,000.
Without a vaccine available, workers who are directly affected by COVID-19 continue to face several challenges. These challenges range from how this virus affects workers’ overall health, to how workers manage care for their loved ones. These challenges are especially concerning for certain communities, specifically Black and racialized communities, who are more likely to be exposed to the virus. Accordingly, UFCW is urging the government to enable affected workers to receive 100 percent of their weekly pay through EI. Furthermore, employers should be required to process EI forms directly with the government.
Additionally, the federal government needs to acknowledge that front-line grocery store workers have been working through the entire pandemic and are helping to feed Canadians and their families. The federal government therefore needs to work with employers and provinces to reintroduce a $2-an-hour wage increase. This premium pay was called “hero pay” when it was first introduced at the beginning of the COVID-19 outbreak. As workers continue to work through this public health crisis, they should receive hero pay that acknowledges their courageous efforts.
Finally, we cannot expect to rebuild the Canadian economy without an adequate child care system that allows parents to go back to work. Women have been disproportionately affected by this global health crisis and are more likely to experience challenges in returning to work. It has become more urgent than ever to ensure that Canadians are properly supported over the next few months and beyond. That is why UFCW Canada is calling on the federal government to introduce a universal child care and early learning system that will be essential to restarting our economy.
You can help support the call to provide Economic Security for All during the COVID-19 recovery by signing our petition today. Add your voice and send a message to the government that Canadians need continued support to truly rebound from the financial impacts of COVID-19.