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Danny Cavanagh: The fight for 10 permanent paid sick days continues

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – The Nova Scotia Government’s announcement of four days of paid sick leave is a great win for all of us who have been advocating for it.

It goes to show that we were right and how public pressure by many people and their organizations can make a difference.

Our campaign at the Federation of Labour generated some 500 letters to politicians in the last couple of months. While the four days is not everything we wanted, it has moved the needle for thousands of workers without paid sick days.

Many of those workers are women and racialized workers in minimum wage and/or precarious jobs. Dr. Strang estimated this week that upwards of 5000 people are in isolation. This win for four days will at least allow them some income through the government programs, and we are happy that the Liberals and premier recognized the urgent need for paid sick days. 

Only a few days ago the premier said this issue is not on the radar, no matter how many times it was raised. Several times it was pushed off by Premier Rankin to the federal program. Because of our work we forced them to move.

We know that four days is not enough, and we know that employers should be paying for it, not the taxpayers and above all, it must be permanent, not temporary.

Taxpayers shouldn’t be on the hook to repay big box corporations for paid sick days. They can well afford to pay employees for a few days of sick leave. In fact, one would think that a good corporate citizen would just pony up and not look to get taxpayers dollars just because they can.

The same goes for workers getting vaccinated, just pony up and make sure your workers get paid time off to get the shot in the arm. The more these profitable corporations take from the pot of money, the less there is for the small mom and pop shops who really need the help. 

Government must include in these programs a requirement for businesses to open their books and prove that they really need the help. What will happen on July 31st this program comes to an end for those thousands of workers?

Will there be a fourth wave, what effects will we see after July? We cannot hope that once everyone’s vaccinated, they will never get sick again. Now that we in the labour movement have the door kicked open a crack, we will keep pushing for greater reforms, so all workers have access to permanent paid sick days enshrined in labour standards.

We will not walk backwards from here and our Federation will intensify our campaigns for permanent paid sick days and issues important to workers, whether they are unionized or not.

Danny Cavanagh is president of the Nova Scotia Federation of Labour

See also: Halifax Labour Day rally demands 10 paid sick days for all workers, now more than ever

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