British Columbia Premier John Horgan arrives before the budget speech from the legislative assembly at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

British Columbia Premier John Horgan arrives before the budget speech from the legislative assembly at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, April 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

Worker fears getting COVID-19 without sick leave, wants B.C. to act

Premier John Horgan has said the province is considering its own sick-leave program

Avtar Badesha says he fears getting COVID-19 or being exposed to the virus because he couldn’t support his family without any paid sick leave during quarantine.

The 33-year-old power engineer in Vancouver’s education sector said his wife doesn’t work and they have a six-month-old baby so affording rent and groceries would be tough if he lost two weeks’ wages.

The possibility of infection is a daily worry and he is taking every precaution when meeting with contractors, co-workers and others on the job, which requires the maintenance of boilers and heating systems.

“I’m just dodging the bullet,” he said in an interview.

Badesha is counting on the British Columbia government to create a sick-leave program that would encourage workers to stay home and look after themselves while also protecting others in the community.

“It would also be productive for companies, and people would be mentally more secure,” he said.

In B.C., a public health order can be issued that requires workplaces to shut down if three or more employees have tested positive for COVID-19.

Premier John Horgan has said the province is considering its own sick-leave program after the federal government failed to bring in a national one that would fill in the gaps of the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit.

Employees should have the confidence of getting paid when they’re ill instead of being forced to go to work and potentially causing outbreaks, Horgan said.

Ontario introduced measures Wednesday providing all workers with three paid sick days to help them take time off to self-isolate during the pandemic, with a plan to reimburse businesses for the cost.

British Columbia Labour Minister Harry Bains said the province is trying to strike a balance between the needs of workers who sometimes can’t take a single unpaid day off even to wait for COVID-19 test results and businesses that are trying to stay afloat.

“How do we ensure that our workers can stay home when they’re sick and at the same time they don’t lose pay? And also looking at the employer side, they’re hurting right now. How do we make sure that we don’t put the economic burden on them as much either?”

Bains couldn’t say how many paid sick-leave days the province’s program would provide, but he said it’s partnering with WorkSafeBC and plans to unveil a plan in the coming days.

B.C. is considering a long-term solution beyond the federal program, which expires in September, Bains said.

Laird Cronk, president of the BC Federation of Labour, said the federal program requires employees to wait several weeks to find out if they qualify for lost wages of $450 a week after taxes, which is less than the province’s minimum wage.

“For a new worker who just started working this year, if you didn’t make $5,000 last year you don’t qualify,” he said.

“Probably one of the most glaring deficiencies of the federal program is a provision that says you have to be off at least half of the work week. So for a Monday-to-Friday full-time worker, one minute after lunchtime on Wednesday if you get COVID symptoms and have COVID, you’re not covered that week.”

Cronk is calling for 10 days’ sick leave every year, to be paid by employers who would get a 75 per cent wage subsidy if they can show they endured financial hardship due to the pandemic.

Over 90 per cent of workers in B.C. earning $30,000 or less a year do not have a sick-pay plan, Cronk said, adding many of those are doing essential jobs in grocery stores, warehouses and food processing plants.

“Workers will be going to work today, undoubtedly, with symptoms because they’re worried about the economic impact of not going to work,” Cronk said.

Tony Singh, owner of the grocery chain Fruiticana, which has 15 stores in B.C. and three in Alberta, said over a third of his 60 warehouse employees have been in quarantine and he paid them all two weeks’ wages while they were off.

“They’re the ones who are running the company. They’re the ones who are making money for us,” said Singh.

It would be up to franchisees running the stores to decide on sick leave at the chain’s retail outlets, he said.

However, Singh said while grocers have fared well during the pandemic, other businesses have struggled to survive, so it’s up to the government to bring in legislation to protect all employees and those trying to keep their companies going.

Anita Huberman, CEO of the Surrey Board of Trade, said 14 days’ sick leave would be most beneficial for workers in the city, where a third of the land base is agricultural and employs many foreign workers and newcomers to Canada.

“The most efficient sick-leave program would be one that requires employers to automatically pay workers when they’re sick and then the employer is compensated by the government immediately. And there has to be a mechanism online for application by the employer so they’re not compromised on their bottom line either.”

Camille Bains, The Canadian Press

Coronavirus

Just Posted

.
Princeton’s Spotlight wins two provincial awards for excellence

Publisher takes first place for investigative reporting

Princeton GSAR responds 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. In 2020 the crew was called out 34 times, and members spent 721 hours on calls, and 683 hours training. Photo Princeton GSAR Facebook
Teen missing in Manning Park found after 24 hours

Young man spends night on mountain and survives with just a few scrapes

The COVID-19 cases reported over the week of May 30 to June 5. (BC CDC)
South Okanagan sees second straight week of 17 new COVID-19 cases

Summerland, Keremeos and Princeton all recorded no new cases

The Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen has hired a new FireSmart coordinator. (Black Press file photo)
FireSmart coordinator named for Regional District of Okanagan-Similkameen

Kerry Riess will provide assistance to mitigate potential wildfire hazards

The damages to the downtown park in Keremeos. One of the trees that was uprooted was a memorial tree with a plaque. (Submitted)
Memorial tree in Keremeos park uprooted by vandals

All of the trees in the small park were torn up and the statue was shifted

Dr. Albert de Villiers, chief medical health officer for the Interior Health Authority. (Contributed)
Black Press Media Weekly Roundup: Top headlines this week

Here’s a summary of this week’s biggest stories from the Okanagan-Shuswap

Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of June 13 to 19

Flag Day, Garbage Man Day, International Panic Day all coming up this week

57-year-old Kathleen Richardson was discovered deceased in her home Wednesday, June 9, 2021. Her death is considered a homicide and connected to the slain brothers found on a Naramata forest road. (Submitted)
Naramata community in shock as condolences pour in for homicide victim Kathy Richardson

Richardson was well liked in the community, a volunteer firefighter with a home-based salon

British Columbia-Yukon Community News Association’s 2021 Ma Murray Awards were handed out during a virtual ceremony on Friday, June 10. (Screen grab)
Black Press Media winners take gold at B.C. and Yukon journalism awards

Publications received nods in dozens of categories

The RCMP are asking for assistance regarding the death of Kathleen Richardson of Naramata, pictured here. Her death is believed to be related to two homicides in Naramata in May. (RCMP)
Police identify South Okanagan homicide victim as 57-year-old Naramata woman

57-year-old Kathleen Richardson was discovered deceased in her home Wednesday

Fair-goers take a ride at the 120th annual Armstrong Interior Provincial Exhibition and Stampede Aug. 28-Sept. 1, 2019. (Katherine Peters - Morning Star)
Armstrong’s IPE not eligible for COVID-19 grant designed for major attractions

Shuswap MLA Greg Kyllo criticized the rigidity of the provincial program’s criteria

Two e-scooters parked on the sidewalk along Water Street in downtown Kelowna on Monday, May 3. Scooters parked on walkways are causing accessibility issues for some people with disabilities. (Michael Rodriguez/Capital News)
Kelowna General Hospital clinicians observe increase in e-scooter injuries

A report is set to go to city council next week on how the e-scooter pilot has gone thus far

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau greets campers while visiting McDougall, Ont. on Thursday, July 19, 2018. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Frank Gunn
71% of B.C. men say they’d prefer to go camping with Trudeau: survey

Most British Columbians with plans to go camping outdoors say they’d prefer to go with Trudeau or Shania Twain

Members of the Department of Fisheries and Oceans’ Marine Mammal Response Program rescued an adult humpback what that was entangled in commercial fishing gear in the waters off of Entrance Island on Thursday, June 10. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Response Program)
Rescuers free humpback ‘anchored’ down by prawn traps off Vancouver Island

Department of Fisheries and Oceans responders spend hours untangling whale

Most Read