For Immediate Release-Grey Bruce Labour Council
Paid Sick Days
It is hard to imagine a place taking a harder turn away from social progress as quickly and with such disastrous effects for citizens as Ontario undertook in the horrific regime of the Harris Tories of the mid- nineties and early twenty first century. Not since the days of Leslie Frost had so much progress been undermined and turned back. That is until the Doug Ford Tories were elected in the summer of 2018.
“The Ford Tories were elected on a populist agenda with its biggest selling point being “dollar a beer” and changing license plate colours. Not exactly an agenda that should have appealed to anyone looking out for the long term well being of Canada’s most populous province”, says Grey Bruce Labour Council Vice President for Bruce County, Dave Trumble. Unfortunately the “dog whistles” grabbed the electorate’s low hanging fruit.
This weak kneed Conservative election campaign declined to put forth any policy platform. Labour knew that, as much as possible, any Conservative government would align as quickly as possible with their minders such as the Canadian Federation of Independent Business and many local Chambers of Commerce to topple and roll back legislation that would bring forward improvements to working conditions, labour law and health and safety legislation for workers. Labour Council President, Kevin Smith notes, “the prediction was absolutely correct”.
The Liberal government of Kathleen Wynne, no stalwart friend of labour or working people, had for any number of reasons come to the conclusion that the time for labour law and employment standards reform was grossly overdue. The last progressive labour law reform had been upended by the Harris, laughably called, “Common Sense Revolution”. Labour Council Vice President for Grey County, Chris Stephen, knows as a previous candidate for the NDP “that Liberals are seldom aligned with workers for any other reason than to secure votes, but at least the reforms of late 2017 made a real difference”. A public employee, Stephen is painfully aware of the vast and unbridled privatization agenda of the Tories and how little the Liberals did to change this course. Nonetheless, there was hope in the labour law reform.
At the time the increase to a fifteen dollar an hour minimum wage garnered the headlines. Employers and their various associations claimed that the end of life on earth was at hand if the increase in minimum wage to come to fruition. “Of course every modern economic model proved them wrong, but like a “dollar a beer” this was low hanging fruit for Ford and his cronies” says Smith. As important, if not more so, to workers and the reform agenda was the drive for some degree of sick leave provision. The provision, woefully inadequate as it was, was two paid sick days with ten days of leave in total. “Despite this meagre reform the Ford government wasted no time in eliminating this provision, amongst others” says Trumble.
With the remainder of 2018, all of 2019 and the first couple of months of 2020 the Ford Conservatives did not alter course. They “gutted” these progressive labour and employment standards changes from late 2017 while pursuing what Conservatives know as their only platform, doing all that is possible to undermine public services and any provisions that would elevate and improve working conditions for Ontario workers. “Little did anyone know that these choices would injure, make ill and likely kill people in the numbers we see in the pandemic”, says Trumble.
Labour leaders have called for a reckoning in a post COVID-19 world where those responsible for legislative choices that put our healthcare at risk will be somehow held to account. The Grey Bruce Labour Council will be privileged and anxious to make sure that the world knows of the reprehensible choices by the Ford Conservatives and any government that has sacrificed public services on the alter of tax cuts and privatization.
Smith points at the “The Ford Tories are so bound to their regressive dogma that they cannot even see the harm in real time that is being done as they rigidly and dispassionately deny a meagre 10 days of paid sick leave for Ontario workers”. The vast majority of workers without similar or better sick leave provisions are those that have carried the rest of us through the pandemic and they are the very ones that are choosing to feed their families or stay home when the don’t feel well. Of course these amazing workers are doing all they can to serve and protect all of us by doing what is best, “but the profound failure of the Ford Conservatives to push back against their handlers and employer associations is putting workers in untenable situations and without a doubt this has cost COVID-19 infections and lives. The caucus of obsequious MPP’s in Ford’s government must be held accountable for enabling the vastly unavoidable carnage of worker’s lives”, says the Grey Bruce Labour Council Executive.
The damage and shame of the Ford Conservatives will resonate long after COVID-19.