Tell the Minister of Labour, key cabinet ministers and local MLAs to back the government’s 10-day option.
(Unceded Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh and Musqueam territories — Vancouver, BC) The BCFED kicked off a digital campaign today to urge the government to opt for 10 days of employer-paid sick leave when it unveils the details of the permanent program later this fall.
“Ten days of paid sick leave is what we need to ensure that workers don’t have to choose between going to work sick and paying their bills,” said BCFED President Laird Cronk. “It’s the baseline in most of the OECD, and the overwhelming preference among British Columbians. Public opinion research shows eight of every 10 people in the province support at least 10 sick days per year. And that support is consistent across ages, genders, regions and even partisan support.”
The campaign includes an open letter calling on the Minister of Labour, key cabinet ministers and local MLAs to back the government’s 10-day option, at futureforall.ca/10_days. The letter is available in multiple languages including English, Punjabi, Traditional Chinese, Simplified Chinese, and Tagalog.
A recent CCPA–SFU Labour Studies survey found that more than half of BC workers aged 25 to 65 get no paid sick leave — a figure that rises to 89 per cent of workers earning under $30,000 per year. “Low-wage workers are disproportionately women and racialized people. So we wanted to make a particular effort to ensure they can make their voices heard,” Cronk said.
- Details about the BCFED survey, conducted by Research Co., are available here (PDF).
- The BCFED report on paid sick leave in BC, released last month, is available here.
- News releases are also available in Punjabi, Traditional Chinese, and Tagalog.
(Unceded Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh and Musqueam territories — Vancouver, BC) September 30, 2021 marks the first National Day for Truth and Reconciliation. This is a day for all of us to recognize the legacy of colonialism and genocide, and how the practices that reinforce and amplify them continue today.
The discovery of the unmarked graves of 215 children on the grounds of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School on Tk’emlúps te Secwépemc Territory, and subsequent discovery of hundreds more at the former locations of many others, lend that legacy an especially painful weight this year. The grief and pain of First Nations, Métis and Inuit people everywhere are enormous. We share that grief and will not forget these children or the experiences of all Indigenous survivors and non-survivors of residential schools.
For years now we have known September 30 as Orange Shirt Day, named for the story shared by Phyllis (Jack) Webstad, whose brand-new orange shirt, bought by her grandmother, was stripped from her on her first day at residential school when she was six years old. Now we move forward together with a day recognized nationally as a statutory holiday. And while the BC government is still discussing the best way to mark this day provincially in the future, the BC Federation of Labour has chosen to close our offices on September 30 in observance.
We will take this day to reflect on the damage done by colonialism and genocide: through the residential school system, through measures ranging from land theft to the suppression of languages and cultures, and through the many ways colonialism continues today. We will consider what it means to live and work in a colonial province and country. We will look at how labour in British Columbia and beyond can play a more effective role in dismantling those structures of oppression and serve as better allies to Indigenous peoples. And we will recommit to the work of decolonization, within our own walls and in the broader community.
The BC Federation of Labour encourages workers everywhere to join us in this day of reflection and acknowledgement, and we have compiled a list of events and actions happening around the province.
We recognize the path of reconciliation and healing will be long, but all of us — Indigenous and settler communities alike — will be stronger and better for it.
This year, for the first time, September 30th, National Day for Truth and Reconciliation will be marked as a statutory holiday. This means many of you will have the chance to take the day to reflect on truth and reconciliation and on the genocidal legacy of Canada’s Indian Residential School System.
We have compiled a list of events that are happening around the province that you can participate in if you choose, and actions that you can take to increase your own understanding, or to further the call to action of elected officials on matters pertaining to public policy and truth and reconciliation.
(Unceded Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh and Musqueam territories — Vancouver, BC) British Columbia could be on the verge of a breakthrough in protecting workplace and community health if the provincial government proceeds with its 10-day option for paid sick leave, BCFED President Laird Cronk said today.
Responding to the BC government’s announcement today of three options for the paid sick leave plan it will introduce this January, Cronk emphasized that the benefits go beyond protecting workplaces from infectious disease and containing outbreaks. “Right now, the lack of paid sick leave is putting strain on the healthcare system and amplifying inequalities between workers,” he said. “Over half of BC workers, and nearly 90 percent of low-wage workers —disproportionately women and racialized workers — don’t have paid sick leave.”
In August, the BCFED released a report that looked at the success jurisdictions around the world have had with paid sick leave, as well as recent research into its impacts. The report recommends the province guarantee employer-paid sick leave that is seamless, applies to all workers, replaces a workers’ full wages and ensures sick workers can’t be fired for staying home.
As part of the report, BCFED commissioned new public opinion research by Research Co. that found 86 percent of British Columbians surveyed support the 10-day BCFED plan, which sees workers start with three days at the outset of the year and up to seven more accrued depending on hours worked.
“At least 10 days of employer-paid sick leave is the norm throughout the OECD,” Cronk said. “The federal government is poised to introduce 10 days of paid sick leave in workplaces it regulates. And it’s a modest amount when you consider the contagion period of the flu and other illnesses, not to mention self-isolation for COVID.”
He said workers are still waiting to hear details on who the BC government’s plan will cover and how it will be paid. And he strongly suggested the government scrap its planned 90-day waiting period. “Infectious diseases don’t have 90-day waiting periods, and neither should paid sick leave,” he said.
Cronk said whatever paid sick leave program the province chooses should meet one simple test: “Does it mean a worker who wakes up feeling sick can stay home without worrying about paying the bills, so they don’t put colleagues and their families at risk? That’s what really counts.” He encouraged workers to speak out through the provincial government’s online survey at engage.gov.bc.ca/paidsickleave.
(Unceded Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh and Musqueam territories — Vancouver, BC) As the Delta variant drives a new wave of COVID-19 in BC, new public opinion research shows nearly nine-in-ten British Columbians believe businesses should provide paid sick leave, with 80% of British Columbians supporting at least 10 days per year. The poll, conducted by Research Co. in late August, shows this support is consistent across the political spectrum, with BC Liberal, BC Green and BC NDP supporters aligned.
“British Columbians overwhelmingly agree that no one should have to choose between their health and the income they rely on to care for their loved ones,” said BCFED President Laird Cronk. “As the BC government weighs options and models for implementing permanent paid sick leave, this is clear evidence that British Columbians see 10 days of paid sick leave as an employer responsibility.”
Following significant public pressure from the labour movement, the BC government legislated amendments to the Employment Standards Act in May to include a permanent paid sick leave entitlement for provincially-regulated employees. A consultation process is currently under way to inform what that program will entail when it comes into effect in January 2022.
The poll shows that more than three-in-four British Columbians (76%) think the program should cover part-time and casual workers in addition to full-time employees. “The results of this poll demonstrate a striking consensus across age, gender, region and income level: British Columbians support a robust, universal, employer-paid sick leave program,” said Mario Canseco, President of Research Co. “And that support is steady for those with and without access to paid sick days.”
The findings are detailed in a new BCFED report titled An Equitable Recovery: The Case for Paid Sick Leave as a Right of Employment in BC. The report draws on extensive literature to demonstrate that paid sick leave protects public health by limiting broader contagion and illness, while also boosting economic resiliency and workplace productivity.
The report also shines a light on how the lack of access to paid sick leave amplifies racial and gender inequality. Nearly nine-in-ten, low-wage workers — predominantly women and racialized workers — and 53% of all workers in BC currently have no paid sick leave. Ten days of paid sick leave will serve as an important inequality-fighting foundation to any economic recovery.
“The pandemic has crystalized the public health and economic case for paid sick leave in BC,” added Cronk. “As a matter of equity and fairness, we must stop forcing workers to choose between their health and paying their bills.”
Read An Equitable Recovery: The Case for Paid Sick Leave as a Right of Employment in BC here.
Read Research Co.’s polling factum here.
Let’s say you wake up sick Tuesday morning.
In much of the world, the idea that you might still go into work would seem absurd. Workers in countries like Sweden, Germany and even Washington State can count on guaranteed paid sick leave — it’s the law.
But not in British Columbia. More than half of the province’s workers, 53%, don’t have paid sick leave. For them, the choice is either go into work sick or don’t get paid.
That may be about to change, though. In what could be one of the biggest advances for working people in a long time, the BC government has promised to bring in paid sick leave by the beginning of next year. And they’re consulting British Columbians right now about what it will include, who it will cover and how it will work.
If they get it right, BC will lead the country with a new standard that helps keep individual workers and their colleagues healthy, protects our community and reduces costs for businesses.
But some lobby groups are pushing hard for a watered-down approach. And if they prevail, the evidence suggests that workers aren’t the only ones who will be worse off.
When we force sick workers to choose between staying home and paying the bills, it’s often an impossible choice. And it leads to the spread of infectious disease to coworkers, customers, and the public.
That leads to lower productivity, higher absenteeism, and greater disease transmission. When we’re talking about colds and flu, that’s bad enough. But we’ve learned the bitter lesson that when a deadly illness like COVID-19 is circulating, the outcomes can be disastrous and tragic: workplace closures and economic shutdowns for businesses, and debilitating illness and death for the general public.
Paid sick leave is one of the ways we protect our community and our economy from diseases. When sick workers can choose to stay home without paying a financial penalty, they recover more quickly. Their coworkers (and coworkers’ families) stay healthy. And businesses are more productive and have lower costs from employee turnover and workplace injuries.
A robust paid sick leave approach also does a lot to fight inequality. Nearly nine-in-ten low-wage workers don’t have paid sick leave, and that group includes a lot of women and Indigenous and racialized workers. Ensuring they can stay home when they’re sick at full pay improves their health and lets them count on a more stable income.
Which is why so many countries require employers to offer it (and pay for it). New Zealand requires 10 days of leave a year; in Washington State, it’s 52 hours. Swedish workers get 14 days of sick leave, and German employers cover up to six weeks.
It’s also why there’s so much public support for paid sick leave. National opinion surveys repeatedly show overwhelming majorities in favour of ensuring that employers provide paid sick leave for all of their employees.
With public support so widespread, Premier Horgan’s government has every reason to bring in a paid sick leave plan that does all it can to protect the health of workers, business and the community. A truly effective plan will be:
- fully paid: Workers will get their full wage if they stay home sick, and won’t face a financial penalty.
- universal: An effective plan will cover all workers, including part time and gig workers.
- seamless: Workers’ sick pay will be paid immediately through their employers, and workers won’t have to apply for coverage and wait for reimbursement while the bills pile up.
- protected: The plan will ensure nobody can lose their job because they stayed home when sick.
- ample: The plan will provide enough sick days that workers aren’t scared of using up days before the year is out. Ten days is a reasonable level of coverage.
The province’s online consultation is on now, with a web survey at engage.gov.bc.ca/paidsickleave. We encourage you to share your views — but don’t stop there. Speak out as part of our campaign at https://www.futureforall.ca/paid_sick_leave_petition.
This Labour Day, let’s remember what we’ve learned from this pandemic about how much this province relies on workers, and how important workplace health is for all of us. And then let’s take those lessons to heart by bringing in a paid sick leave plan that British Columbia can be proud of.
Laird Cronk is the President of the BC Federation of Labour, and Sussanne Skidmore is the Secretary-Treasurer.
This summer reminded all of us of the importance of workers. And not just because of the pandemic. We’ve all witnessed the dedication of workers fighting fires, caring for heatwave victims, and just showing up for work in extremely difficult conditions.
It also reminds us that workers deserve the basic protections that help ensure you can go home safely at the end of your day, earn a decent living and build a better future for your family.
But those protections are always being challenged, whether it’s by economic changes, misguided political ideologies or employers (not all, but many) cutting corners for short-term profit.
Here are some of the most important protections we’re working to safeguard in the coming year:
Paid sick leave: Nobody should ever have to choose between staying home when they’re sick and being able to pay the bills. But 53% of BC workers and 90% of low-wage workers don’t have access to paid sick leave because provincial laws don’t require employers to offer it.
Paid sick leave can help stem the spread of infectious diseases. And when workplace transmission is prevented, it means a better bottom line for businesses too.
The BC government will bring in paid sick leave by next January, and they’re conducting a public consultation about what it should look like. You can share your thoughts with them online at engage.gov.bc.ca/paidsickleave — but don’t stop there. Join our campaign for permanent, universal paid sick leave at https://www.futureforall.ca/paid_sick_leave_petition.
Workers’ compensation: It’s been clear for years that BC’s workers’ compensation system is broken. Drastic changes and cuts by the old BC Liberal government stacked the deck against injured workers.
While we’ve seen some welcome reforms under the NDP, they don’t go nearly far enough. The Patterson Report clearly identified sweeping changes needed to create a truly worker-centered Workers’ Compensation Board. Every day of delay puts workers and their families at risk.
Protection for gig and precarious workers: Many workers can’t count on even the most basic employment standards — like the minimum wage, Employment Insurance, the Canada Pension Plan, and access to workers' compensation — because employers misclassify them as “contractors.”
With our economy shifting toward app-based gig work and temporary and part-time employment, it’s time to make sure employment standards apply to everyone.
The right to organize: The evidence is clear: Unions are the single most effective factor in increasing workers’ standard of living and reducing income inequality. They level the playing field with employers on issues like workplace safety, harassment, pay and benefits, and many more.
But often when workers try to organize, they face major barriers — including grossly unfair tactics from employers. We can tackle one of the biggest barriers by certifying unions in a workplace when the majority of workers there have signed union cards, which helps prevent employers from manipulating the certification process.
Labour Day is a celebration of workers. And the best way to make that celebration meaningful is by ensuring every worker has the full protection they’ve earned.
Laird Cronk is the President of the BC Federation of Labour, and Sussanne Skidmore is the Secretary-Treasurer.
(Unceded Squamish, Tsleil-Waututh and Musqueam territories — Vancouver, BC) Yesterday’s decision by the BC Prosecution Service represents a profound failure of the criminal justice system for workers and their families everywhere, BCFED President Laird Cronk said today.
“Justice delayed is justice denied, and the unconscionable delays, insufficient resources and organizational breakdowns in investigating Sam Fitzpatrick’s death have compounded tragedy upon tragedy,” Cronk said. “A system that can’t effectively investigate and prosecute negligent employers endangers workers across the province.”
The BC Prosecution Service announced yesterday it is staying criminal negligence proceedings against Peter Kiewit Sons Co. in the 2009 death of Sam Fitzpatrick. Cronk said the decision shows just how many barriers workers face in seeking justice for health and safety violations.
Cronk cited the 2004 federal Westray Law, section 217.1 of the Criminal Code, which holds employers criminally liable for safety violations that cause a worker’s injury or death.
“Without timely investigation and charges, the Westray Law’s penalties are meaningless. The message to negligent employers should be ‘Kill a worker, go to jail,’ not ‘Just wait it out.’”
Cronk applauded the work the United Steelworkers District 3 has done in pressing for justice in the case. And he acknowledged there have been important improvements to the process for criminal investigations of workplace fatalities in the 12 years between Sam Fitzpatrick’s death and yesterday’s decision.
“We’re still a long way from where we need to be,” he said. “BC has a moral imperative to treat criminal negligence that threatens worker safety with the same urgency and resources as other types of crime involving loss of life.” He called on the province to act immediately on three measures the BCFED has advocated for several years:
- dedicating a Crown prosecutor to deal with workplace fatalities and serious injuries.
- training police services throughout BC on the Westray Law’s provisions, and
- making police investigations mandatory in all workplace fatalities and serious injuries.
Our system failed Sam Fitzpatrick and his family. But we still have the chance to have some good come out of this,” Cronk said. “I hope this spurs our province to take these tangible, real steps to ensure safer workplaces and hold businesses accountable throughout BC.”