New federal investments in sick leave, child care and PPE should be the foundation for permanent, long-term support

New federal investments in sick leave, child care and PPE should be the foundation for permanent, long-term support

CUPE is welcoming last week’s pledge of federal support for paid sick leave, child care, bolstering Canada’s supply of personal protective equipment, and more.

On July 16, the federal government announced a $19 billion support package negotiated with the provinces, of which $7.5 billion would go to purchasing personal protective equipment (PPE). Another $1.1 billion was earmarked for paid sick leave, and $625 million for child care.

However, these are only temporary measures. In order to be truly effective for working families, CUPE is urging the federal government to commit to making these investments permanent in the aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This a strong start to help our communities get through this pandemic. They’re the kind of supports we were asking for long before this crisis, ” said CUPE National President Mark Hancock. “Having things like adequate PPE, paid sick leave, and access to child care shouldn’t be afterthoughts during a pandemic – they’re fundamental to building a strong, resilient economy and society.”

“We won’t have an economic recovery after COVID-19 if we aren’t supporting workers, especially lower-wage workers, and parents of young children, especially women,” said CUPE National Secretary-Treasurer Charles Fleury. “These investments from the government are welcome, but they barely scratch the surface of what’s needed long-term.”

To keep community transmission rates low as we reopen the economy, CUPE believes it is essential that workers are able to take sick leave without having to worry whether they’ll be able to pay bills and buy groceries. Right now, access to paid sick leave is unequally distributed among workers, with lower wage and precarious workers least likely to be covered. While federal support for paid sick leave during COVID-19 is welcome, it’s clear that all workers deserve and should have access to paid sick leave even once the pandemic has ended.

New research also reveals that 80 per cent of families with children under 11 are “very” or “extremely” concerned about their ability to balance school, child care, and work during the pandemic. Workers without child care are unable to work, creating a drag on our economic recovery. Women’s economic participation, in particular, has plummeted to levels not seen in 30 years since COVID-19 shut down the economy. Child care experts have costed the need for childcare at $2.5 billion just to start – which is four times what the government has pledged so far.

With the government’s investment in PPE, CUPE is hopeful that we will finally secure the respiratory protective equipment needed to stock health care and other essential workplaces, and safely reopen the economy. Investing in a strong national PPE stock also relieves stress from the health care system.

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