Sask. government shoots down opposition paid sick leave bill

The government of Saskatchewan voted against legislating paid sick leave for workers in Saskatchewan. Connor O'Donovan / Global News

Saskatchewan Party government members unanimously voted against an NDP private members bill that would have seen Saskatchewan workers guaranteed up to 14 days of paid sick leave.

All tallied on Thursday afternoon, members voted 39-10 to deny giving Bill No. 606 — The Saskatchewan Employment (Paid Sick Days) Amendment Act, 2021 a second reading.

The bill was introduced in November.

Its author, Saskatoon University MLA Jennifer Bowes. has said it would provide “crucial support” to workers who sometimes force themselves to go to work, in addition to reducing contagion in the workplace.

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But speaking before the vote, Labour Relations Minister Don Morgan said his government wants to “make sure that businesses are able to stay viable” and touted its recent pledge to increase the minimum wage as a way of ensuring people have enough money in their pockets to get by.

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“We felt the best way we could support them was by giving them an across-the-board increase for lower-wage workers,” Morgan said.

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“We want to make sure we don’t have too many things creating an additional burden for employers as we come out of the pandemic.”

In response, Bowes said it’s more than just the province’s lowest earners who would have benefitted from mandatory paid sick leave.

“We know over half of Saskatchewan workers don’t have paid sick days so it’s many more workers than just minimum wage workers in this province,” Bowes said.

Bowes also cited a Centre for Future Work report that found 10 paid sick days would only impact business profitability by 0.21 per cent.

“Part of that comes from the benefit of workers being able to come in rested and well, and not coming in exhibiting presenteeism where they’re potentially working and not able to work to the best of their abilities,” she said.

“You see reduced turnover when you see good, decent working conditions for people. There’s a whole host of things that were considered in that report.”

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The 10 votes in favour of forwarding the bill all came from Saskatchewan NDP members.

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