Ontario’s new pandemic pay has been expanded to include more frontline workers.
Over the weekend, the province announced the temporary pandemic pay for frontline workers, in recognition of the “dedication, long hours, and increased risk of working to contain the COVID-19 outbreak.”
Ontario Premier Doug Ford said the increase will $4/per hour worked on top of existing hourly wages, regardless of the qualified employee’s hourly wage. In addition, employees working over 100 hours per month would receive lump sum payments of $250 per month for each of the next four months.
According to the province, this means that eligible employees working an average of 40 hours per week would receive $3,560 in additional compensation.
Those eligible to receive the payment include staff working in long-term care homes, retirement homes, emergency shelters, supportive housing, social services congregate care settings, corrections institutions, and youth justice facilities, as well as those providing home and community care and some staff in hospitals.
At the time, the OPSEU said that the “reality is that not every front-line worker will meet the government’s two-fold criteria.”
On Tuesday, OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas announced that after conversations with the province, they have expanded the pandemic pay to more frontline workers, including: Respiratory therapists, paramedics, public health nurses, and all addictions and mental health workers who, in a congregate setting, serve the same functions as workers in acute-care hospital settings previously noted as receiving pandemic pay.
The Ontario Public Service Employees Union said it will not be collecting union dues on any pandemic pay that members receive.
“As soon as the original plan was made public, my office was in touch with government officials lobbying hard for additions to the eligibility list. And while today’s expansion is not everything we asked for, I applaud the government for listening and moving the yardsticks,” said Thomas.
“We will continue to work to ensure all employers remain focused on ensuring front-line workers’ jobs are protected and that they have the requisite safety equipment.”
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As per the province, staff providing frontline clinical services, along with those providing support services, such as cleaning and meal preparation, will be eligible to receive the pandemic payment. The additional compensation is temporary and would begin flowing immediately and continue for 16 weeks.
The province said these measures build on steps the government has already taken to support frontline workers, including providing free emergency child care and securing necessary medical equipment and supplies.
With files from Eric Zimmer