·  Media Release   ·  

Steelworkers Union Calls for Worker Support and Protection During COVID-19

TORONTO – As the coronavirus pandemic (COVID-19) spreads around the world, unions, including the United Steelworkers (USW), call for increased protections and supports for workers.

“As federal and provincial governments in Canada take actions to limit the spread of the virus, we must ensure workers are supported and protected,” said Ken Neumann, USW National Director.

“The USW is concerned for the health and safety of our members. The USW represents many workers who are particularly vulnerable during this time, such as airport screeners and health-care and retirement-home workers.

“We are reminding our union’s members to stay current with and follow advice from local public health authorities. Many members of our union have powers through our collective agreements to demand action from employers to ensure the health and safety of our members in their workplaces,” said Neumann.

However, not all workers have unions, and even union workers don’t have all the protections and support they need in these challenging times.

The USW joins others in the labour movement in calling on federal and provincial governments to take comprehensive action to protect and support workers during the COVID-19 crisis.

“Measures announced so far by governments are not enough. Time away from work to stop the spread of the virus should not mean loss of income, regardless of job or workplace. Unpaid job-protected leave doesn’t pay the bills,” said Neumann.

The USW supports the calls such as those by the Canadian Labour Congress and the Workers’ Action Centre for further measures to protect workers.

“At only 55% of income, Employment Insurance (EI) doesn’t provide a living wage for low-income workers, not to mention the 60% of unemployed workers that don’t have access to EI in the first place,” said Neumann.

Particularly during this period, workers need additional paid sick days, income supports and other assistance to deal with job loss and work interruptions that will affect their earnings.

Government should make additional funds available to provide income relief for health sector workers who may be subject to quarantine or who become sick.

Banks, landlords, credit card companies and financial institutions should be instructed to extend and relax mortgage, rent and bill payment requirements, loan servicing obligations and other responsibilities facing consumers and households.

As well, the GST/HST credit should be doubled to provide income support to low-income Canadians.

The USW extends its thanks and appreciation to all public health workers – doctors, nurses, paramedics, health-care providers, personal support workers and all caregivers – people on the front lines helping those who are ill and putting themselves at increased risk of infection due to the very nature of their jobs.

“Let’s also protect ourselves from false information,” said Neumann. “Stay informed and rely on trusted sources such as the Government of Canada and your local public health authority for the latest reliable information,” said Neumann.

“Wash your hands and let’s do what we can to support one another – while staying a safe distance apart,” said Neumann.


For further information:

Ken Neumann, USW National Director, 416-544-5951
Bob Gallagher, USW Communications, 416-544-5966, 416-434-2221, bgallagher@usw.ca

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