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BC Federation of Labour urges 10 paid sick days on final day of provincial consultation

Mandated paid sick days – a federal campaign promise – will come to B.C. in some capacity by Jan. 1

About 40 members of the BC Federation of Labour gathered outside the Legislature on the last day of the province’s sick leave consultation, urging the government to mandate 10 paid sick days.

“Somebody had said to me, ‘it’s the first rally of (BC Fed) in about three years and look what Mother Nature thinks of that,’” said federation president Laird Cronk, in reference to Monday’s heavy wind and rain that left demonstrators on the Legislature’s steps visibly shaken. “I’ll tell you what I think – I think Mother Nature’s looked around and said ‘this idea’s been around for so long, I’m going to put my wind in the back of workers today.’”

Mandated sick leave across the province – a national campaign promise of the incumbent Liberal parliament and the subject of consultation in recent months in B.C. – has been the subject of an 18-month campaign by BC Fed which ended Monday.

An open letter of support was signed by 70 organizations including Canadian Doctors for Medicare, the Union of BC Indian Chiefs and the Canadian Labour Congress, Cronk said. The letter asks the government of B.C. to mandate no less than 10 paid sick days when they institute new sick leave legislation on their promised date of Jan. 1, 2022.

“We don’t want workers to have to choose between the rent, the bills, medicine or doing the right thing and staying home. We know that workers facing that choice do go into work,” Cronk said.

Ellie Callaway, a budtender at Trees Cannabis, said Cronk’s statements were accurate.

“When the decision is between going to work sick or not having enough money to pay for your necessities, it’s not a choice, it’s a threat,” she said. “As we learned during the COVID pandemic, this is not workable. Sending workers to work while sick doesn’t benefit anybody.”

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According to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA), 89 per cent of those across the country making $30,000 or less do not have any paid sick leave, and more often people in this group are racialized or Indigenous women. A report from the Federation of Labour found the same percentage of British Columbians (89 per cent) surveyed believe businesses have a responsibility to provide paid sick leave; 86 per cent support the idea of 10 paid sick days.

The legislation should come sooner than later, said Federation of Labour secretary treasurer and CCPA board member Sussanne Skidmore, considering its presence in both the federal NDP and Liberal campaign platforms last September.

With their Monday demonstration and months-long campaign, “we are doing something for this nation,” Cronk said. “We are going to put Canada on a road where every province has sick days for their workers, and it starts right here today.”

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Demonstrators in favour of 10 paid sick leave days stand in front of the B.C. Legislature on Oct. 25, the final day of the province’s consultation towards the same. (Kiernan Green/News Staff)