It would seem unionized public sector employees across the province are flexing their muscle and pressuring the Doug Ford government to reverse its well-considered cuts. This week doctors and nurses stood near the Ontario Legislature braving the elements to insist Doug Ford government bring back paid sick days.
The health professionals, members of the advocacy group Decent Work and Health Network, said the province should reinstate paid sick days ahead of what is expected to be a severe flu season. They also called on the province to scrap rules that allow employers to demand sick notes from workers.
According to group, this demand is not really for them, but for the patients who visit hospitals. The health care workers are worried sick that if they don’t have paid sick days, they will be forced to risk passing on germs to their patients. This they conclude is a risk they aren’t prepared to take.
Members of the network held placards and banners, chanted and handed out information to passersby, many of whom probably have to forgo a day’s pay if they fall sick or bring in a doctor’s note at the very least.
On January 1 this year, as part of amendments to the Employment Standards Act, the province repealed two paid personal emergency leave days, established by the previous Liberal government, and replaced them with three unpaid days for personal illness.
The government also now allows employers to require that employees provide sick notes when taking short medical leave for minor illnesses.
The demonstration comes after Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott reminded the public to get the flu shot. On. October 30, Elliott went to a pharmacy at Women’s College Hospital in Toronto to get vaccinated herself.
Elliott said at the time: “Every Ontarian can join our efforts to put an end to hallway health care by getting their flu shot. In fact, getting your flu shot is an important part of keeping all Ontarians healthy and out of hospital.”
According to the group, the people most vulnerable under the new labour rules are low wage workers, people in part-time or casual positions and employees exempt from Ontario’s Employment Standards Act.
In a media report, one ER doctor and network member, said the flu can last much longer than two days and good government policy is needed to prevent it from spreading.
According to the Canadian Medical Association, sick notes are a public health risk because many Ontario workers may go to work ill instead of getting notes from their doctors. The association ran a letter-writing campaign, “Say No to Sick Notes,” last year to oppose the requirement.
Perhaps the Canadian Medical Association should be advocating for paid sick days across the public and private sector as a way to get a handle on the upcoming flu epidemic. If every Ontario worker was entitled to two paid sick days or more, very few if any patients would be visiting hospitals for flu-related illnesses. Perhaps then we might need fewer health care workers. -CINEWS