Ontario announces “pandemic pay” increase of $4 an hour for front-line workers

The Government of Ontario has announced that it will be providing front-line workers with a temporary “pandemic pay” raise amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

Premier Doug Ford said that the $4 per hour salary increase, or “pandemic pay premium,” will be paid in addition to the existing hourly wages. 

The pay raise is said to be in place as of Friday, April 24 and will continue for 16 weeks, until August 13, 2020. 

In addition, employees working over 100 hours per month will also be receiving lump-sum payments of $250 per month for the next four months. This means that eligible employees that are working approximately 40 hours per week may receive a total of $3,560 in additional wages. 

The announced temporary pay raise was made upon the recognition of the continued efforts, dedication, sacrifices, long working hours and health risks front-line workers face in the fight against COVID-19.

“Today, we’re recognizing their incredible effort. We’re recognizing their sacrifice,” Premier Doug Ford told reporters at a news briefing at Queen’s Park. “These people put themselves in harm’s way to care for our sick and vulnerable citizens.”

“I am truly grateful, as are the people of Ontario, for their service, and it’s time we give something back to those who sacrifice so much day in and day out” said the Premier.

Treasury Board President Peter Bethlenfalvy has said that more than 350,000 employees across Ontario will qualify for the pandemic pay raise

Eligible workers for the pay raise include staff who work in the following settings: 

  • Long-term care homes
  • Retirement Homes
  • Emergency Shelters
  • Supportive Housing 
  • Social Services
  • Congregate Care Settings
  • Corrections Institutions
  • Youth Justice Facilities 
  • Some staff in hospitals, including registered nurses and auxiliary staff

A detailed list of eligible workplaces and workers can be found in the Province’s Newsletter here.

Pay Raise for Front-line workers long overdue, says NDP Leader Andrea Horwath

Andrea Horwath, Leader of the New Democratic Party, NDP, has said that the pay raise for front-line workers is long-overdue as the pandemic has shut down the province for more than a month. 

“I’m asking Doug Ford to make this additional pay retroactive to the day the state of emergency was declared, so that people’s sacrifice and hard work to keep us all safe is recognized,” said the NDP leader in a statement this past Saturday.

Additionally, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which represents 60,000 health-care workers in Ontario, supported Andrea Horwath’s statements saying the union has advocated for a pay increase at the start of the pandemic. 

“While the news of this increase will be welcomed by health-care workers who are struggling financially, it should be made retroactive to include those who are on unpaid leave as a result of quarantine or contracting COVID-19 themselves,” SEIU Healthcare President Sharleen Stewart said.

“Our government can demonstrate if they truly believe these workers are heroes by making this temporary increase permanent,” added the SEUI president.

Amid these pressures from SIEU and the NDP, Premier Doug Ford has said that his government was not able to give workers a raise until the federal government had decided to help fund the initiative. 

“The federal government played a massive role in stepping up and helping us,” Ford said. “I wish I could have increased the pay from day one, the government didn’t have the capacity at the time.”

Premier Doug Ford thanked the federal government for its help, but said the province needs a sustained commitment.

“We need them to do their part when it comes to protecting the most vulnerable in long-term care homes,” said the Premier.

“The situation we’re all facing is unprecedented and it’s extremely serious. This crisis has clearly shown the deeply-rooted, longstanding cracks in our long-term care system. We need to do better. And we will do better.”

Sources: GlobalNews and CBC

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