Demand #3 Safety over Profits

There are many truths that have been laid bare through the COVID-19 crisis. We have learned that many people can do their work from home. We have learned that jobs, which countless people have belittled and dismissed in the past are, in fact, essential to the functioning of our lives. Perhaps most significant, we have learned that government responds to pressure and will put money on the table when it comes to directing emergency spending. We have yet to find out what the true financial fallout of COVID-19 will be, but if every other crisis is any indication, we do know that the business community is lobbying government hard and that bailout money for businesses is coming, if it hasn’t already arrived.  

Workers in low-wage jobs have gotten used to feeling expendable long ago, but in the time of a global pandemic, even more so. From the onset of COVID-19 to the present recovery struggles, workers have clearly been the canary in the mine shaft. The recovery efforts by the government so far appear to be more about profit rather than safety.

Many workers are working and living in fear – the fear of balancing their health with financial necessity. Add to the mix companies that do not offer sick pay and we see workers who are hesitant to report illness because that would mean losing money they may need to pay rent or for their next meal.

The largest companies can be some of the worst offenders and to compensate for this, some companies have offered large bonuses to employees who returned to work. Even with large payouts, unsafe working conditions still occur across industries and it's unclear whether Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) via the Saskatchewan Employment Act is a useful mechanism to enforce safe standards when it comes to Covid-19 and Covid-19 restrictions.

The larger fear is that tough times for businesses may lead employers to cut corners when it comes to Health and Safety in general. It is unseemly to think that this could happen, that compliance with the law would need to be incentivized. On the other hand, we fight for a higher minimum wage because businesses subsidize their profits on the backs of their workers stuck at minimum wage. Is it really that much of a leap to think Occupational Health and Safety would be treated any differently than an inconvenient cost?

What we do know is that when businesses care more about their bottom line than worker wellbeing (as proven through OHS violations), these businesses must be barred from accessing bailouts and other forms of industry relief funded through the taxes of those very workers whose OHS rights are violated.

We demand businesses take Occupational Health and Safety seriously.

We demand permanent, paid sick days for all workers funded by those employing them.

We demand that health and safety protections for workers be enforced.

We demand that there be no bailouts or tax payer funded relief for businesses who commit OHS violations!  

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