Alta NDP wants gov’t to change labour code to protect workers sick with H1N1

EDMONTON — The Alberta Federation of Labour wants changes to provincial laws to ensure lower-wage earners would get paid sick leave and not lose their jobs if they’re at home ill with H1N1 flu.

EDMONTON — The Alberta Federation of Labour wants changes to provincial laws to ensure lower-wage earners would get paid sick leave and not lose their jobs if they’re at home ill with H1N1 flu.

Federation president Gil McGowan says employment standards codes in six other Canadian jurisdictions state that workers cannot be disciplined, demoted or dismissed for taking time off work because of short-term illness.

The Alberta code, McGowan says, doesn’t say anything about sick leave and if people are scared about losing their jobs, they will drag themselves into work and spread the virus.

He says workers whose employers don’t provide paid or unpaid sick leave won’t get paid or risk losing their jobs for doing the right thing by staying home when sick.

But Labour Minister Hector Goudreau says most contracts contain sick leave provisions.

He says he’s willing to meet with the federation and employers and “see where it goes.”

Goudreau also says this is an issue that employers and employees should have worked out by now.

“At this stage I’m not prepared to open up the labour code, but I’ll talk with the industry, and I’ll talk with employers and employees and we’ll see where it goes,” said Goudreau.

The labour group says Statistics Canada says 43 per cent of working Canadians do not have employers with policies that allow them to take time off when they’re sick.

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