March 13, 2020
TORONTO – Unifor is urging employers across every sector of the Canadian economy to protect workers from COVID-19 exposure and assist in slowing the spread of the pandemic to ease the impact on the health care system.
“We’re asking employers to implement systems and policies to protect all Canadians during the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Jerry Dias, Unifor National President. “Don’t require sick notes from workers, waive waiting periods for sick leave under collective agreements, and realize there may be legitimate absentee issues due to school closures. These steps are vital to protecting Canadians and minimizing hardship on workers and their families.”
The union is working to respond to member questions about their rights at work given the necessary precautions recommended by public health officials. Practicing social distancing, self-isolation in the event of illness, and avoiding all unnecessary travel will cause disruption in workplaces that employers must accept as a reasonable response to the pandemic.
“Workers should not be disciplined for following public health recommendations, defending their own health and the health of everyone around them,” said Lana Payne, Unifor National Secretary-Treasurer. “Despite the financial and organizational challenges this pandemic response will create, it is essential that workers are supported by their employers in protecting their health.”
Workers in several sectors of the economy, such as the hotel, gaming, manufacturing and transportation sectors, have already experienced layoffs, throwing thousands out of work and into financial hardship.
“We are also very concerned about part-time and precarious workers including those returning from parental and maternity leaves who will not qualify for employment insurance, which is why we are calling on the federal government to create an emergency workers fund and reduce the number of hours required to qualify for EI,” said Renaud Gagné, Quebec Director.
Employers can help if they:
- Require sick notes from workers for absences;
- Discipline workers for self-isolating.
- Waive waiting periods for sick leave under collective agreements;
- Provide personal protective equipment (PPE) where necessary and encourage work-from-home solutions where possible.
Unifor is Canada's largest union in the private sector, representing 315,000 workers in every major area of the economy. The union advocates for all working people and their rights, fights for equality and social justice in Canada and abroad, and strives to create progressive change for a better future.
For media inquiries, contact Communications Representative Kathleen O’Keefe, at firstname.lastname@example.org (416) 896-3303.
Unifor has launched a hub for member information about the pandemic at unifor.org/COVID19 and encourages members to check the site regularly for updates.