TORONTO -- The Ontario government’s Worker Income Protection Benefit (WIPB) falls far short of what health experts and worker advocates have been calling for. Even worse, the scheme provides less money to low-wage workers who would otherwise have qualified for the already flawed CRSB. Once again, low-wage racialized workers whose communities are being hardest hit by COVID-19 are being left behind.
The program is far from the “best paid sick day plan in North America” -- it is temporary until September and is only for COVID-19 related illness. At just three days, the WIPB does not offer the minimum 10 paid days that workers need - especially during a pandemic. But perhaps the most troubling aspect of this new scheme is the fact workers earning less than $23 an hour could actually be worse off under Premier Doug Ford’s WIPB than under the CRSB.
- The new program does guarantee workers their regular pay for up to three consecutive days. But workers cannot receive both the WIPB and the CRSB in the same week, so those who need to stay home for the entire week will still be left taking unpaid days and must forgo income support through CRSB.
- For minimum wage earners, this is devastating. Regular gross pay for a worker earning minimum wage ($14.25) for a 7-hour day amounts to just under $100 per day ($99.75). For three days, that same worker would receive their regular gross pay of less than $300 ($299.25) for the entire week.
- But by availing themselves of the WIPB, that same worker must then forgo the $500 in gross income provided by the CRSB. In other words, the worker who stays home gets tested and learns they have COVID and must therefore continue to stay home will lose more than $200 in gross weekly income under Ford’s plan. In fact, a worker with a 7-hour workday would have to earn almost $30 an hour to be better off under the WIPB than the CRSB.
While the program shortchanges the lowest-paid workers who are least likely to have paid sick days, the WIPB represents a massive public subsidy to grossly profitable corporations. Companies like Loblaws, Amazon, and Walmart that have made billions during the pandemic must be required by law to provide and pay for adequate sick days.
The Ford government continues to ignore calls for the kind of paid sick days legislation workers and our communities need -- paid sick days that are permanent, fully paid, accessible, employer-provided, and adequate. How many more workers and children must die before Ford finally does the right thing?