Toronto – March 20, 2020 – UFCW Canada welcomes the COVID-19 response package announced by the federal government on Wednesday, but says additional measures are needed to help protect the health, safety, and economic wellbeing of workers during the pandemic.
On March 18, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Finance Minister Bill Morneau announced a $82 billion coronavirus aid package that provides $27 billion in financial support to help Canadian workers and their families weather the COVID-19 health crisis.
The package includes a new Emergency Care Benefit for Canadians who are ill, in quarantine, or for those caring for a sick dependent who do not qualify for Employment Insurance (EI) benefits; a COVID-19 support benefit for people who become unemployed as a result of the pandemic; a temporary wage subsidy for employers to help them keep workers on payroll; a short-term boost to the Canada Child Benefit and Goods and Services Tax (GST) rebates; and a reprieve on student loan payments, among other measures.
“While our union is encouraged to see the federal government taking urgent action to help Canadians during this pandemic, additional relief is needed to support the health, safety, and economic wellbeing of workers across the country, particularly those who are on the front lines of containing the spread of COVID-19, and workers who are helping Canadians get the food, supplies, and sanitation products they need to stay safe in this crisis,” says Paul Meinema, the national president of UFCW Canada.
“Our union is therefore calling on the government to take further action on EI reform, job protection, paid leave, and safeguarding health care, food and beverage retail, pharmacy, and other front-line workers during this unprecedented pandemic,” the UFCW leader adds.
To help better support and protect workers and their families during the COVID-19 health crisis, UFCW Canada is urging the federal government to work with employers and the provinces to:
- Temporarily reduce or eliminate eligibility requirements for EI regular and sickness benefits;
- Immediately increase the current EI benefit rate from 55 per cent to 100 percent as containment efforts intensify and more workplaces shutter in response to the crisis;
- Expedite EI Work Sharing applications and increase EI staffing to help the government adequately respond to increased demand for EI benefits;
- Work with employers and the provinces to ensure that all front-line workers have the personal protective equipment and sanitation supplies they need to stay healthy and safe while working;
- Work with employers and the provinces to limit the number of shoppers allowed in retail locations and temporarily ban the use of reusable bags;
- Provide hazard pay to employees who are required to work during the pandemic;
- Provide direct financial support to workers in the gig economy – including Uber and Lyft drivers and app-based delivery workers – who do not have access to EI benefits;
- Work with First Ministers across Canada to declare that no one will be fired for self-quarantining or recovering from infection, and that if a worker loses their job for these reasons, they will be reinstated;
- Permit flexible work arrangements such as telecommuting and video and teleconferencing, end non-essential travel, and postpone unnecessary meetings and events;
- Provide paid sick leave under short-term disability and sick leave plans while maintaining drug coverage;
- Provide paid sick leave for workers under prevailing federal, provincial, and territorial labour standards to cover the entire quarantine period;
- Work closely with health and safety committees and labour unions to provide accurate and timely information to employees about accessing benefits and support;
- Increase funding for and access to mental health counselling and supports and provide solutions to workers’ emergency child care needs; and
- Seriously re-evaluate Canada's reliance on Temporary Foreign Workers, and renew conversations with unions regarding active labour market policies and creating more pathways for permanent residency.
UFCW Canada is the country’s leading private sector union, representing more than 250,000 union members across Canada working in food retail and processing, transportation, health care, logistics, warehousing, agriculture, hospitality, manufacturing, and the security and professional sectors. UFCW is the country's most innovative organization dedicated to building fairness in workplaces and communities. UFCW Canada members are your neighbours who work at your local grocery stores, hotels, car rental agencies, nursing homes, restaurants, food processing plants, and thousands of other locations across the country.