Ontario offering some front-line workers $4 more an hour amid pandemic
TORONTO -- Ontario's front-line workers will receive $4 more an hour for the next 16 weeks amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Premier Doug Ford made the announcement Saturday at Queen’s Park alongside Health Minister Christine Elliott, Minister of Long-Term Care Dr. Merrilee Fullerton and the Treasury Board President Peter Bethlenfalvy.
“It’s our way of saying thank you,” Ford said.
Workers eligible for the “temporary pandemic payment” increase include staff at long-term care homes, retirement homes, emergency shelters, supportive housing, correctional institutions, youth justice facilities and those providing home and community care.
FULL LIST: Who is eligible for the "pandemic payments"?
“For these heroes, getting up every day, getting back in the fight, getting back to the front lines, comes at a great price. It comes with a personal sacrifice. Nevertheless, every day, these brave men and women show up,” Ford said. “They take risks, day in and day out. They do this to look out for us and as premier, it’s my job to look out for them.”
The payments do not appear to apply to people who work at essential private businesses such as grocery stores.
The provincial government said that the average full-time worker would receive an additional $3,560 in additional compensation over the next four months.
Ford also said that employees who work at least 100 hours per month will receive an additional $250 lump-sum payment per month.
About 350,000 workers in the province will receive the pay hike, Ford said, which will take effect on April 24 and last until Aug. 13.
The pandemic payments do not apply to management-level employees.
Ford added that he hopes the extra funding will help remove hiring obstacles for some facilities struggling with staff shortages.
“This increase will also help our front-line providers attract the staff that they need to continue taking care of patients and residents during this unprecedented time.”
The Leader of Ontario’s New Democratic Party released a statement shortly after the announcement, asking the government to make the payments retroactive to the day Ford declared a State of Emergency in the province—on March 17.
“Our frontline workers, whether in long-term care facilities or hospital kitchens, have done extraordinary work since the beginning of this state of emergency. It’s wrong that it took so long for this small wage top up to arrive,” Andrea Horwath said.
Ontario Liberal Leader Steven Del Duca echoed the sentiment, saying that governments in Quebec and British Columbia implemented similar practices much earlier.
"The pay increase should be retroactive to March 17th, the day the state of emergency was declared," he said in a statement. "And paramedics should receive this additional funding - the province's current plan excludes paramedics from receiving additional support."
Ford told reporters that he wished he could offer the wage hike "from day one," but he needed help from federal partners in order to make it happen.