Emergency Action Needed for Working People and Families

March 16, 2020

The Vancouver and District Labour Council Executive Board recognizes the danger posed by the present COVID-19 pandemic. 

The virus poses a serious risk to many in our workplaces and communities, and we applaud all measures to flatten the curve of this pandemic and prevent its further spread.

We recently announced our decision to cancel our March regular meeting in response to COVID-19. We are also cancelling all meetings to be held in our office space until further notice. We will continue to monitor the situation and assess the advisability of hosting other planned events. As our next upcoming Labour Education courses are scheduled in May and June, we are not anticipating the cancellation of these events at this time, however we will monitor the situation and notify registrants of any changes closer to that time.

We also want to take a moment to recognize the efforts of all front-line workers, with a special thanks to medical personnel and first responders who are on the front lines of addressing potential cases of COVID-19 and protecting the wellbeing of patients and the public.

But the pandemic poses a danger to more than our health. The financial wellbeing of working people is also at risk, exacerbated by previously existing affordability and housing crises. Today untold numbers of working people are at risk of not being able to put food on their tables, pay their rents or mortgages, and other hardships with potentially disastrous consequences.

While the Federal government announced $10 billion in aid available to businesses through the Business Development Bank of Canada, direct aid to working people has yet to be seen. A few days ago, we called upon the BC government, through the Minister of Labour, to enact paid sick leave so that workers who are feeling unwell or required to self-isolate are protected. Action on this is critical to ensuring that workers are not forced by economic necessity to attend work while ill and put themselves and others are increased risk.

We are calling upon all levels of government to cooperate in implementing an emergency program for workers, including:

  • Paid sick leave for all workers, including paid leave for all workers who are quarantined, or required to self-isolate,
  • An immediate moratorium on all evictions,
  • An immediate moratorium on rent and mortgage payments for workers quarantined or required to self-isolate in relation to COVID-19,
  • Removal of the waiting period for workers accessing Employment Insurance as a result of COVID-19-related layoffs.

We note that as this situation rapidly develops, additional consequences continue to reveal themselves. Therefore, it should be acknowledged that further actions may yet be needed from government.

Robust, proactive measures aimed at containing the spread of the virus and bold steps to protect the housing and economic well-being of working people are both urgently needed to ensure the best possible recovery from this pandemic. Now is the time for government to act.

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