Windsor worker says paid sick leave would be a 'huge deal' after Ford government hints at possible program

·3 min read
Line cook Joey Wright says he doesn't have paid sick days, which mean he often has to choose between his health or his paycheck. (Jacob Barker/CBC - image credit)
Line cook Joey Wright says he doesn't have paid sick days, which mean he often has to choose between his health or his paycheck. (Jacob Barker/CBC - image credit)

For line cook Joey Wright, the ability to have paid sick days would mean taking the time he needs to recover from an injury or a sickness — something he's currently not able to do without his paycheque taking the hit.

"Taking a day off is not acceptable. It's not affordable," said Wright, who works at a Windsor restaurant.

"If you have to take those two weeks off to quarantine, that's more than devastating. That's having to choose between your electricity bill or your phone bill, between paying rent or buying food."

On Thursday, the provincial government hinted at offering workers paid sick days — something that medical professionals and politicians have been calling on the government to offer throughout the pandemic. Yet, Ontario Premier Doug Ford has been strictly opposed to the idea.

Earlier this week, Windsor's Ward 9 councillor Kieran McKenzie brought a motion to council urging the province to legislate paid sick days. Though the decision wasn't unanimous, it did get approved.

"Given the premier up until today was staunchly opposed to bringing this forward, I'm not terribly optimistic," McKenzie told CBC News.

Kieran McKenzie, Ward 9 councillor, brought the motion forward earlier this week. He says he was disappointed it wasn't a unanimous vote.
Kieran McKenzie, Ward 9 councillor, brought the motion forward earlier this week. He says he was disappointed it wasn't a unanimous vote. (CBC News)

He says it's critically important to protect these workers and notes that many of them have been praised for continuing to come into work.

"Whether you support paid sick days or not, folks in the community and elected officials have acknowledged those contributions and those risks and celebrated those folks," McKenzie said.

"It's one thing to acknowledge what they're doing, [but] I think it's a whole other thing to actually walk the walk and offer them the supports that they need to be able to continue to offer the services that they're delivering in the safest way that they possibly can."

Mayor Drew Dilkens urged against the motion because he said council wouldn't have a good enough idea what the program would cost because the sick days program would continue after the pandemic.

Windsor-Essex top doc calls lack of paid sick time a 'barrier'

But amid a third wave that is ravaging parts of the province, health officials say paid sick time is essential to help bring the cases down.

Medical officer of health Dr. Wajid Ahmed says paid sick time is a barrier right now and prevents people from acknowledging their symptoms.
Medical officer of health Dr. Wajid Ahmed says paid sick time is a barrier right now and prevents people from acknowledging their symptoms. (Jennifer La Grassa/CBC)

"I think it's an important step to ensure that people are not reporting their symptomatic state or their COVID status with the fear of losing their pay so I think there has to be some support system in place," said Windsor-Essex medical officer of health Dr. Wajid Ahmed on Thursday.

"Removing this barrier of paid sick time, I think this would definitely be helpful in early identification of the disease and would allow better case and contact management."

And for workers like Wright, it would mean not having to choose money over their health.

"Would you go to a restaurant if you know that your cook has a cold or the flu? No, but they have to go to work because they can't afford not to, paid sick leave would give them the time to stay home, recover, recuperate," Wright said.

"To be able to have those paid sick days is such a huge deal."