An Extraordinary Crisis for Workers
The COVID-19 pandemic is having an extraordinary effect on the lives of working people in Canada.
In some cases, government-mandated restrictions forced workplace shutdowns and unemployment. In others, rising demand for critical goods and services resulted in work intensification.
The lack of government and employer preparedness to deal with a crisis of such magnitude is apparent. Employers who, for years, failed to establish meaningful health and safety protocols, procedures and care supports put workers – and their loved ones – at significant risk of contracting the virus. Precarious and low-wage workers, including those in marginalized communities, bore the brunt of this neglect.
Relentless pressure by the business community to deny workers access to paid sick days, health benefits, and decent wages along with flexible work schedules to support care needs made the crisis worse than it needed to be. Governments that underestimated the virus and delayed action cost both jobs and lives. The fallout of COVID-19 continues to affect the most vulnerable communities, raising concerns of an unequal recovery.
This crisis has taken an unprecedented physical, financial and emotional toll on workers, including tens of thousands of Unifor members. In the face of adversity, the union leaned on its collective power to guide us through.
Where employers failed to act, union representatives exercised contractual rights to protect members wherever possible. Unifor leveraged its strength through bargaining to secure gains, improve working standards and navigate the crisis, while appreciating that the union is not immune to its devastating effects.