WINNIPEG – Brian Pallister’s promise of 14 days of paid administrative leave for front-line health workers has given false hope to hundreds of health workers who have been in isolation due to COVID-19, says the Canadian Union of Public Employees.
“When Brian Pallister announced 14 days of paid administrative leave for front line health care workers, it was expected that this was to ensure workers told to self-isolate by their employer would be covered,” said Shannon McAteer, CUPE Health Care Coordinator.
“It turns out his promise only covers very few health workers, and hundreds will be forced to exhaust their sick banks, leaving the health system vulnerable in the future.”
On April 14th, Premier Pallister and health officials promised a 14-day paid leave for health care workers who come in contact with COVID-19 to self-isolate. On April 24th the government informed staff that the coverage indeed only covers staff who the employer officially recognizes have come in direct contact with COVID-19 in the workplace.
It does not cover health workers turned away at the door when they are screened coming in to work.
“When you force health workers to use their sick bank to self-isolate, you are asking those workers to return to work with no sick time available going forward,” said McAteer.
“Sick banks in health care are there for a reason, and that’s to ensure if a health worker catches a cold, or gets ill, they aren’t choosing between a paycheque or staying home: they stay home.”
Home care workers have access to a maximum of four paid sick days at any time and many have less sick time available than that. This is unacceptable at the best of times and a dire circumstance during this historic pandemic.
CUPE calls on the provincial government to extend the 14-day paid administrative leave to cover all health care workers who are sent home by their employer to self isolate.
CUPE also calls on the provincial government to extend presumptive WCB coverage to all workers who are sent home due to COVID-19.
“During a health pandemic we need to make sure workers are protected,” said McAteer. “Pallister’s support for health workers is hollow.”