AFL applauds federal announcement on paid sick leave – AFL

AFL president says it’s now Premier Kenney’s turn to step up and protect Alberta workers

EDMONTON – The president of Alberta’s largest worker advocacy group is applauding today’s announcement confirming that the Trudeau government will guarantee 10 paid sick days for all workers in federally regulated jurisdictions.

“This is a huge step in the right direction,” says Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan. “It will save lives and improve our ability to get the pandemic under control. It will also dramatically reduce the costs to employers and the economy associated with illness in the workplace.”

The announcement is the fulfillment of a promise made by the Trudeau Liberals during the recent federal election campaign, and it comes one day after BC’s New Democrat government announced five paid sick days for all workers in that province.

McGowan says the ball in now firmly in the court of other provincial premiers, including Alberta Premier Jason Kenney.

“The only problem with the federal announcement is that it applies only to people working in federal regulated workplaces like inter-provincial transportation and telecommunications. That represents only about 10 per cent of the Canadian labour force; the rest fall under the jurisdiction of the provinces. That’s why we’ll be ramping up pressure on the Kenney government to guarantee paid sick leave for people working in all provincially regulated workplaces, as well.”

McGowan says that about two-thirds of Alberta workers currently don’t have access to paid sick leave – a reality that has made it virtually impossible for many workers to follow public health orders directing them to stay home when they’re sick.

“Working Canadians shouldn’t have to choose between staying home when they’re sick and putting food on the table,” says McGowan. “If the pandemic has taught us nothing else, it’s that we can no longer afford to deny workers access to paid sick leave. It has become a public health imperative. Workers have waited far too long for this common sense policy. We won’t wait any longer. Any government that stands in the way will pay the price at the ballot box. We in the labour movement will make sure of that.”

The AFL is currently running a campaign to pressure the Alberta government to agree to follow the federal government’s lead by introducing 10 days of paid sick leave for all Albertans. McGowan says his organization will continue with the campaign until the necessary policy changes are made, adding that he’s disappointed that the B.C. government opted only for five days, not ten.

“This is not an issue where half a loaf is as good as a full one,” says McGowan. “Ten days of paid sick leave is the minimum that policy makers should be pushing for – and the minimum that workers should accept.”


Ramona Franson
Director of Communications, AFL