Holes in the safety net: CERB and EI coverage falls short
The federal government is moving at breakneck speed in the midst of the pandemic. Within a week, it announced two new income support programs, before replacing them with the newly legislated Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB). The redesigned social safety net is an improvement, but as we at Rankandfile.ca found out, it continues to exclude hundreds of thousands of people.
Read more: Applying for CERB or EI
The great Canadian health care mess
Our neighbours down south might be jealous of our universal health care program, but pervasive underfunding and consequent understaffing are revealing major fault lines in Canada as well.
Ontario in particular is particularly vulnerable as hospital beds have been reduced to 30,000 from 50,000 three decades ago, meaning care might have to be rationed as cases rise. Although the Ford government announced “surge funding” during the pandemic, PressProgress notes that it’s the same amount as flu-season funding in previous years.
Meanwhile, shortage of personal protective equipment is putting health care workers across the country at risk as governments feverishly attempt to procure more.
Privatization exacerbating COVID-19 crisis in long-term and home care
The Toronto Star reports that COVID-19 is exploiting the flaws in Ontario’s long-term care sector and endangering people’s lives due to “chronic staffing, precarious working conditions and poor workplace safety.”
As has previously been reported by Rankandfile.ca and rabble, the quest to profit off the nursing home business is inherently related to the degradation of working conditions. In Ontario, 58 per cent of homes are for-profit but ancillary services such as laundry and housekeeping are contracted out even in non-profit and municipal homes.
But it gets worse. Yesterday, the Toronto Star reported that the province is introducing sweeping changes to long-term care and “eliminating long-held rules that protect vulnerable residents.” A lawyer with the Advocacy Centre for the Elderly characterized the changes as “disastrous,” but the for-profit lobby lauded “bold action” by the government.
As Rankandfile.ca has previously reported, the for-profit lobby has donated significantly to Ontario’s Progressive Conservatives (and Liberals).
The situation is not much better in British Columbia’s nursing homes. The Globe and Mail’s investigation into the for-profit home with the majority of COVID-19 deaths reveals the same issues: precarious working conditions whereby staff work multiple jobs and place themselves and vulnerable residents at greater risk of infections (55 long-term care workers in B.C. have already been infected).
As Rankandfile.ca reported earlier in the week, conditions in Ontario’s home care are not much better as precarious nurses and other low-wage workers deal with the effects of the pandemic.
Exploiting workers during a pandemic? Sure, say employers
Toronto Star reports that employers like Dollarama have asked workers to use vacation days for self-isolation, while others are telling employees to take pay cuts to save their jobs. This is consistent with a poll released earlier this week where 66 per cent of respondents said their employers were not covering the cost of their lost work.
Employers continue to be callous about risk of infections
Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) workers in Edmonton told Rankandfile.ca they will exercise their right to refuse unsafe work if Canada Post does not address atrociously unsanitary working conditions by March 29. Postal workers from other parts of Canada have also raised similar concerns.
COVID-19 infections among postal workers have already led to the suspension of mail delivery in Newfoundland and most recently the closure of a mail depot in North Bay, Ontario.
A Registered Nurse says the Co-Op Refinery in Regina that is using scab labour to continue operating is a “disaster waiting to happen” due to cramped working conditions, in a letter obtained by Rankandfile.ca.
Bike couriers may have won the right to unionize in Toronto, but are still working precariously amidst the pandemic even as they are deemed essential.
Meanwhile, Hamilton sanitation workers spoke to Rankandfile.ca about their work refusal due to unsafe conditions.
Cleaners are particularly vulnerable
One of the most essential jobs at this time is cleaning but custodial workers are among the most vulnerable, as this important Toronto Star piece documents. Many cleaners are undocumented, which means they can’t access any of the employment support programs if they fall ill or are laid off, even as they perform vital jobs for sub-minimum wages.