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BC Business Lobby Wants Paid Sick Day ‘Entitlements’ Delayed ‘Until After The Pandemic’

Labour leaders and health experts call the suggestion 'alarming'

The Retail Council of Canada and other big business lobby groups demand British Columbia’s government halt legislation guaranteeing workers paid sick days — until after the pandemic is over.

The BC’s NDP government announced plans in May to introduce permanent paid sick leave, slated to come into effect on January 1, 2022. Details of the legislation are still being worked out but BC residents can provide feedback on proposed plans for three, five or ten paid sick days until October 25.

Some, however, insist the government should hold off on guaranteeing any paid sick days.

According to a press release on the Retail Council’s website, British Columbia’s business owners are just not able to cover the cost of a “paid sick leave entitlement.”

“Too many retail businesses made vulnerable by the pandemic cannot afford the additional labour costs involved at this time,” the release says.

BC’s Lobbyist Registrar shows the Business Council of British Columbia, the BC Chamber of Commerce and the Canadian Federation of Independent Business have all lobbied the government about proposed paid sick day legislation, over the past year.

Meanwhile, a recent study from the University of British Columbia found that more than half of all workers in Canada lack access to paid sick leave. Those workers were more likely to be in the lowest income group, or in precarious employment.

Kim Novak, president of UFCW 1518, said that this legislation is essential for addressing the workplace inequalities revealed by the pandemic.

“I think it’s alarming that the call is to wait until after a pandemic before we put in necessary health and safety legislation like paid sick days to prevent people from having to make a choice between going to work sick or staying home and not being paid,” Novak told PressProgress.

The press release also states that the Retail Council of Canada prefers governments provide six months notice before implementing new labour legislation.

A survey sponsored by the BC Federation of Labour found that 89% of respondents believe businesses have a responsibility to provide paid sick days for their employees. 86% favor ten paid sick days.

Dr. Gaibrie Stephen, an emergency room doctor in Ontario and member of the Decent Work and Health Network, said that paid sick days enhance preventative care.

“We know for example that workers without paid sick days are more likely to forgo routine medical care while workers with paid sick days are more likely to get screening examinations,” Dr. Stephen told PressProgress.

“The grueling choice between health and income stability is an unfair choice. This is a choice that we could as a society prevent if we implemented paid sick days,” Dr. Stephen said.

The Worker Solidarity Network, meanwhile, sees the creation of permanent paid sick leave as a key moment for the BC NDP.

“How BC decides to safeguard those who’ve been made most vulnerable will demonstrate the fundamental priorities of this government,” Pamela Charron of the Worker Solidarity Network told PressProgress. “We hope that this new addition includes all workers- full time workers, part time workers, temporary and casual… regardless of their immigration status and workplace size.”

The Retail Council of Canada declined a request to view the letter it sent to the provincial government, requesting the paid sick day legislation be delayed.

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