COVID-19 impact: Canada to give a pay raise to their essential workers

ST Correspondent
Saturday, 9 May 2020

Canadian PM Justin Trudeau has allocated funds for essential workers earning less than $1,800 per month

Canada is increasing compensation for its essential workers, in an affirmation that numerous workers who are currently taking a chance with their wellbeing and working during the outbreak are making the least.

"If you are risking your health to keep this country moving and you're making minimum wage, you deserve a raise," Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was quoted during a public announcement this week.

Trudeau's government has signed with provinces and territories with an agreement to spend over $3 billion and raise wages for essential workers with a monthly income of less than $1,800.  

"I think one of the things that we're seeing through this pandemic is that there are people who are tremendously economically vulnerable, and vulnerable in other ways in our society, who are extremely important to the functioning of our society," Trudeau said. 

While one of the largest healthcare syndicates in Canada welcomed the news, they also warned that an approximate of sixty thousand workers would need to see the money in their pockets soon without bureaucracy. 

"Frontline essential workers now are exhausted, they're terrified, they've got colleagues in every sector dying. It's nice to hear but they are exhausted from that and they want to see those words turned into action now," said Sharleen Stewart, president of SEIU Healthcare, in an interview with CNN Friday.

Stewart said that the COVID-19 had is responsible for the death of three health workers, and there is a lack of personal safety equipment.

"The essential service workers that right now help save our lives and care for our loved ones are a lot of the minimum wage earners, the lowest paid in society. They have precarious work and our lives are depending on them right now," said Stewart.

Although jurisdiction can decide who is eligible for the increase, priority will also be given to primary health workers and some staff from the food industry.

In hard-hit senior homes ravaged by the virus, provinces are struggling to fill positions. "Our biggest challenge remains the lack of staff in our health care system," said Quebec Premier François Legault during a press conference on Thursday.

Legault welcomed the Federal government's injection of money and said his province had already tried to encourage people to come back to work with bonuses, however, they still face a severe shortage of frontline workers.

Canada continues to struggle in older homes across the country with hundreds of coronavirus cases. Approximately 80 per cent of the people in Canada who died of COVID-19 are residents of long-term care centres.

It also plans to deploy over 1600 soldiers to make up the acuteness of staffing shortages in senior homes in Quebec and Ontario. Trudeau understands that soldiers should not care for elderly people and he promises to look for a sustainable alternative with the provinces.

"We know, however, that once we get through this, in the months and years to come, we're also going to have to have reflections about how we manage and how we maintain our long-term care facilities, how we support essential workers who are very low paid, how we move forward as a society to make sure that our vulnerable are properly taken care of and properly rewarded for the important work they do," he was quoted saying.

Stewart said that while it was gratifying that the salaries and recognition they deserve were received by marginalised workers, politicians like Trudeau had to guarantee that the salaries are not just an emergency increase but also suitable to be a stable living wage.

"This didn't just happen nine weeks ago, these people have been underpaid... and the pandemic just shot a big spotlight on the problem," Stewart said.

Related News

​ ​