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UFCW welcomes Ottawa’s aid package, but says more is needed

March 20, 2020  

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The United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) Locals 175 and 633 welcomes the aid package announced by the federal government, but stress there is need for more direct aid ­to help workers.

“In this unprecedented crisis, Canadians are worried enough about staying healthy without also having to worry about their jobs and paying bills,” says Shawn Haggerty, president of UFCW Local 175. “We are encouraged by the aid package announced by the government. It’s a good start to getting Canadians the help they need right now.”

On Wednesday, in Ottawa, Prime Minister Trudeau announced a $82 billion aid package, of which $27 billion will go directly to help Canadians financially during the COVID-19 crisis.

The package announced by Trudeau on Wednesday includes the following measures:

  • A new Emergency Care Benefit for those who are ill, in quarantine, or for those caring for an ill dependent who do not qualify for EI benefits. The coverage will be similar to EI payments, with a 15-week coverage period;
  • A COVID-19 emergency support benefit for people who lose a job, or run a small business that has to close;
  • A temporary wage subsidy for employers to help them keep people on payroll, equal to 10% of their payroll for 3 months;
  • A temporary boost to the Canada Child Benefit and GST rebates;
  • Other measures, including a reprieve on student loan payments; and additional funding to support indigenous communities, women’s shelters, and the reaching home program to help with homelessness.

“As this crisis progresses, the Union will continue to represent the interests of the members,” added Haggerty. “Both the federal and provincial governments need to focus on measures that provide safety and security to the people in this country. We continue to call on the government to:

  • Expand EI eligibility and coverage;
  • Return paid sick days in the province;
  • Permanently end doctor’s note requirements for sick days; and,
  • Presumptively apply WSIB coverage to frontline workers who contract COVID-19.”

UFCW Locals 175 and 633 has taken steps to protect the membership in all workplace sectors. This includes negotiating EI and benefit top-ups with some employers so that those workers who need to be off work have their pay maintained at full.

The Union is asking employers to do their part as well.

“We are also in talks with employers to limit the number of customers allowed in stores at one time and eliminating the use of reusable grocery bags for the time being,” continued Haggerty. “We also believe that all workers deserve a wage premium for continuing to show up to their jobs and doing what amounts to be hazardous work during this time.”

The Union has also been pushing to ensure healthy and safe workplaces for those who must still go to work through social distance protocols, proper PPE, and enhanced workplace cleaning.

UFCW Locals 175 & 633 represents more than 70,000 Union Members across Ontario working in most sectors of the economy including retail grocery and pharmacy, industrial, health care and hospitality.