Frontline workers in parts of Ontario aren't getting paid while self-isolating following COVID-19 exposure
TORONTO -- Some front-line health-care workers in Ontario say they aren’t being paid while self-isolating following exposure to a positive case of COVID-19.
President of the Ontario Nurses Association Vicki McKenna says that she has heard the complaint from a number of members across the province who have been ordered to stay home by a local public health unit.
“If they have no symptoms, they have no access to sick benefits,” she said while speaking to CTV News Toronto on Tuesday.
She says that although front-line workers have been celebrated for their sacrifices throughout the pandemic, the absence of a province-wide policy on the matter has them feeling “not really important” and that “it's really all talk.”
“What nurses and health professionals have told me is it makes them feel disposable,” she said.
Instead, McKenna says it’s up to individual employers to decide whether or not they will cover an employee’s pay during the 14-day quarantine.
And the problem is not unique to hospital workers.
According to paramedic Jason Fraser, who happens to be chair of the CUPE Ambulance Committee of Ontario, EMS workers might also be feeling the pinch.
“They may pay, up and to the point that they have a negative COVID result, but if public health is still requiring them to further isolate, the employer won't continue to pay that,” he said.
Both Fraser and McKenna say that employers were more likely to pay front-line staff who were forced to self-isolate in the first wave of the pandemic, but that in the second wave, things changed.
“It is not uniform,” McKenna said. “We need it to be uniform across the province.”
For the government’s part, they said in a statement issued to CTV News Toronto that the $19 billion Safe Restart Agreement, which was negotiated between the province and the federal government, dedicated more than $1 billion to the funding and implementation of paid sick days, which the affected workers "should" qualify for.
However, McKenna argues that a health-care worker’s eligibility shouldn’t be in question.
“We're in a pandemic, the first in a century, lets look after the people who are caring for Ontarians,” she said.
With files from CTV News Toronto's Sean Leathong.