Back-to-back rallies press B.C. government for 10 paid sick days a year

Click to play video: 'BC Federation of Labour rallies for 10 days paid sick leave'
BC Federation of Labour rallies for 10 days paid sick leave
As the public comment period ended on B.C.'s plan to offer employees paid sick leave, the Federation of Labour staged rallies Monday in Victoria and the Lower Mainland to back calls for 10 days of employer-paid sick leave. Grace Ke reports – Oct 25, 2021

The BC Federation of Labour held dual rallies in Surrey and Burnaby on Monday afternoon in an effort to pressure the provincial government to implement 10 days of annual paid sick leave.

Monday is the last day residents can weigh in on the province’s employer-paid sick leave policy, whose details — including the number of days covered — have not been ironed out.

Click to play video: 'The push for 10 days of paid sick leave'
The push for 10 days of paid sick leave

Federation president Laird Cronk said he’s “optimistic” the province will choose 10, as opposed to the other proposals of three or five.

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“I think there’s a reasonable plan in place and I think it’s on their option sheet,” he said in an interview.

“Look, I ran a small business — a construction and electrical company. I wouldn’t want workers to come to work and make two or three other electricians sick.”

Studies in New York and San Francisco, where robust paid sick leave policies have been implemented, suggest the program had a “negligible” impact on the cost of business, he said.

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Workers who are sick recover more quickly at home, Cronk added, and save employers from having to bring in replacements for other workers they’ve infected.

Click to play video: 'The push for 10 days of paid sick leave'
The push for 10 days of paid sick leave

British Columbia’s paid sick leave legislation will take effect on Jan. 1, but the government aims to formalize the policy by the end of November.

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Organizers circulated a petition at the rallies in Surrey and Burnaby calling for a “moderate” 10 days a year. They held one Monday morning as well, outside the legislature in Victoria.

“The government is grappling with the question of what you do with businesses, but many businesses are doing exceptionally well,” said Cronk.

“It’s kind of like when they built in holiday pay 30, 40 years ago. I’m sure there was a concern about the economy of it, but you build it in.”

According to the Canadian Federation of Independent Business, nearly half of its members have not returned to pre-pandemic revenues.

In a survey the group conducted, 68 per cent of respondents said they didn’t support 10 days of annual employer-paid sick leave, with more than eight in 10 citing costs as the problem.

The organization has argued that if the government intends to bring in the policy, it should also be responsible for funding it.

Click to play video: 'New poll suggest B.C. small businesses can’t afford paid sick leave'
New poll suggest B.C. small businesses can’t afford paid sick leave

“They have record numbers of debt, we’re talking of upward of $129,000, and recovery’s not quite there — there’s a lot of uncertainty,” Seth Scott, the business group’s senior policy analyst for B.C. and northern Canada, told Global News in an earlier interview.

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“Businesses are very concerned about this. They can not afford another cost right now … clearly businesses are not feeling so great about the economic outlook in both the short and the long term.”

During the election campaign earlier this year, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau promised his government would implement 10 paid sick days for federal workers, up from the current three.

According to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, the only provinces that currently enforce employer-paid sick leave are Quebec and Prince Edward Island, with two days and one day per year, respectively.

Others, including B.C., allow workers to take between three and 12 days of unpaid sick leave.

British Columbians can participate in a survey on the proposed options here.

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