Federals, provinces, and territories reach $4B deal to boost wage for essential workers

Each province or territory will decide which workers are eligible for support

During his daily national address today, May 7, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that the federal government has reached a $4 billion agreement with the provinces and territories to top up salaries for low-wage essential frontline workers.

The wage top-up will also include workers at long-term healthcare facilities where both workers and residents have been infected with COVID-19. 

Prime Minister Trudeau said that Canada needs to reflect on how it treats frontline and marginalized workers and ensure vulnerable people are properly taken care of.

“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 during this morning’s daily briefing outside of Rideau Cottage.

“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.”

This wage increase will be done through a cost-sharing initiative that will be between the federal government and the provinces and territories. 

The budget will have the federal government provide 75 percent of the budgeting and the provinces and territories will cover the remaining 25 percent, with the federal government contributing $3 billion while the provinces will contribute the remaining $1 billion. 

“If you are risking your health to keep this country moving and you’re making minimum wage, you deserve a raise,” said Trudeau regarding the wage boost announcement.

It will ultimately be up to the provinces and territories if you are eligible for this wage boost. 

Because the spread of COVID-19 has affected every province and territory differently and the approach to delivering healthcare is different in each province and territory, Trudeau says that those factors are the reason why the increase is not uniform across Canada.

The prime minister first announced this wage increase on April 15, promising to ensure the essential workers making less than $2,500 a month would see an increase to their wages, including those working in long-term care facilities for the elderly, through a transfer to provinces and territories. 

“Premiers from across the country all agree that we need to support our essential workers,” Trudeau said regarding the decision made by all parties involved.

“We’re relying on these workers now, more than ever, and we will be there to support them”.

A spokesperson for the Prime Minister’s Office said the $2,500 rule has been dropped, to better reflect the wide range of wages paid to essential workers.

Some provinces like Ontario have already established a list of those eligible for this wage boost, but that list may be updated as Trudeau and the premiers are finalizing the details during a conference call later today.

“I know a number of provinces had already put out lists of workers that they consider to be essential and many of them are joining from those lists, in terms of who gets the top-up… We trust the provinces to make sure that people who need it get this help,” said Trudeau.

Ontario has announced a $4-per-hour increase for front-line workers at long-term care homes, retirement homes, emergency shelters, supportive housing, group homes, correctional institutions, and youth justice facilities, as well as for those providing home and community care and some hospital staff.

Quebec announced a $4-per-hour pay hike for workers in private long-term care homes, as well as a $24.28-per-hour salary to attract new workers to fill in as attendants at the facilities.

The crisis emerging in Canada’s long-term care homes disproportionately harder than the rest of Canada where 82 percent of coronavirus-related deaths in Canada are at these long-term care homes, the Public Health Agency of Canada said Tuesday. This has shone a light on health and personal care workers’ typically lower salaries. They often work in multiple homes, which can spread the virus.

With some facilities across Quebec and Ontario, the two provinces hit the hardest by the coronavirus pandemic, struggling to keep a full staff, both provinces have requested help from the military.

Written by: Angelo Cruz

FILE PHOTO: Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau attends a news conference at Rideau Cottage, as efforts continue to slow the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada April 24, 2020. REUTERS/Blair Gable

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