Premier Brian Pallister announced the details of a $120 million wage top-up Tuesday aimed at Manitoba’s front-line workers in the midst of the novel coronavirus pandemic.
It includes numerous positions from health care, social services, justice and corrections, family violence prevention, accommodation services, retail services and transportation.
People will be able to sign up online Wednesday. The deadline will be June 18, said Pallister.
After the application deadline, those that qualify will receive money directly into their bank accounts, said Pallister.
Pallister said in mid-May that essential workers in both the private and public sectors will be eligible for a “one-time risk payment” directly from the province through the partnership.
The payment, made mostly by federal funding, was to be distributed how the province deemed fit.
Some of the positions include shelf stockers, retail sales, cashiers, cooks, security guards, early childhood educators, social workers, nurses, paramedics, health-care aides, community services workers, law enforcement, bus and truck drivers and more.
If fewer people apply and are deemed eligible, it could mean bigger checks for those who do, said Pallister, adding the entire $120 million will be distributed.
The money, like the CERB benefit, will be taxable.
The cost-shared program was promised by Ottawa last month to supplement income for essential workers, such as staff in long-term care homes, who remain on the job. About three-quarters of the funding is federal.
But not everyone was happy with the announcement, as it leaves some higher-paid workers without a top-up, said the Manitoba Nurses Union.
“Nurses are listed as eligible, however the income thresholds set by government exclude nurses,” said MNU President Darlene Jackson.
“Only a small number of LPNs will be eligible under their criteria, and only if they work significantly less than full time. All RNs, RPNs, NPs and all full-time nurses will be completely shut out.”
“Pitting nurses against retail workers, truck drivers, and lower income workers in the midst of a pandemic is simply wrong.”
Bob Moroz of the Manitoba Association of Health Care Professionals agreed.
“MAHCP will not lend our name or support to any government process that pits worker against worker. We are not part of any so-called ‘consensus,'” he said.
“They have created an overly complicated and inconsistent program that is likely to include some front-line Allied Health Professionals who put their own safety and that of their families on the line during the height of the pandemic, but that will exclude others who did so.”
UFCW president Jeff Traeger said he would have rather seen all frontline workers recognized by the province.
“It would’ve been much better if the government had recognized all the frontline workers. By carving out certain groups of them… this is a risk recognition, and I think your risk is pretty close to the same as long as you are out there exposed to the public during a pandemic,” he said.
“Our government has not put a lot of money into workers in this pandemic… so if they wanted to make the benefit meaningful, then maybe Manitoba should’ve put a few million dollars more into this.”
Traeger said he’s happy to see people working in assisted living getting the top-up.
“Those folks generally make significantly less money and they make no benefits and almost no pension at all.. and they deal with some of the most vulnerable people in our society.”