New word alert: presenteeism.
In a previous life I was lucky enough to occupy a job with 20 paid sick days annually. If they went unused, they accumulated. I ended up using an average of one or two a year and left the job with 300 sick days (the maximum allowable) they disappeared into thin air the day I left. I didn’t need them as it turned out but they gave me peace of mind and allowed me to stay home without penalty when suffering from contagious or other illnesses.
Most professionals in Ontario are protected from ill-health by a version of paid sick days. No doubt the Premier and MPPs don’t miss a beat if they have to take a day or two, or even a month off for illness; or a pandemic.
In contrast, most low paid workers (yes, the people who do the actual work in this province) are on the hook for their own sick days. They are torn between coming in when ill and having a big hit to the pay cheque.
Prime Minister Trudeau, for all his sins, thinks that Canadian workers should be entitled to 10 paid sick-days a year. Apparently he’s been persuaded by Jagmeet Singh that paid sick days are a good thing. Especially if there’s a second wave of the Coronavirus this winter. Premier Ford, the man who suppressed the minimum wage, says the money can be better used elsewhere. No doubt in some corporations’ offshore bank accounts.
Readers may remember that Ford eliminated paid sick-leave days back in January 2019. The Liberals had legislated only two of them but Ford thought that zero would be better. With a move worthy of Mike Harris, he replaced them with three unpaid leave days and re-introduced the requirement for a doctor’s note – when taking unpaid time off! After all, doctors have nothing better to do, right?
Ford’s actions on sick leave are dangerous, economically harmful and yes, stupidly counter-productive. Low paid workers spend their money locally. Unlike C.E.O.s, they don’t send it off to a tax haven in Aruba. When the lowest paid workers feel the pinch, so do local businesses. When ill and contagious workers are forced to work (especially health care staff), they are a danger to others. 80% of Covid-19 deaths happened in long term care and nursing homes where many such workers are employed. Even when we’re not in the middle of a pandemic, it’s important that workers be treated with decency so that contagious diseases can be contained and the local economy doesn’t suffer.
Let’s hope that Justin Trudeau can stop dithering and take some decisive action on this. Now is the time for strong leadership not agonizing. For example, if he had closed the borders sooner and stopped a southerly exodus in March, our Covid experience could have been a lot more benign.
Our medical officers of health need to chime in on this for the public good. Unlike their contradictory advice on face masks, this one is clear cut.
Speaking of face masks, a big shout out to Toronto’s Medical Officer of Health Dr. Eileen DeVilla. When she, along with other experts, was telling us that face masks were ineffective, who knew that the good doctor was secretly signalling that a scarf could be adapted for such use. Genius!
Finally…on a brighter note:
Three of the many memes and images in circulation.