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Freelance and gig workers left out of Ontario COVID-19 sick day program

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Ontario politicians passed a bill Thursday afternoon that will provide employees three paid sick days in the event of illness, isolation, or any other work absence related to COVID-19.

The measure, which was announced a day earlier, will be in place until Sept. 25 and will be administered through the Workplace Safety and Insurance Board.

Despite its unanimous passing, it is clear there are many around Queen’s Park who feel the Ontario COVID-19 Worker Income Protection Program could have been much heftier.

Read more:
Ontario’s COVID-19 paid sick leave program to include 3 days for workers

The leader of the official opposition, the Ontario NDP’s Andrea Horwath, slammed the Ford government on Thursday for limiting the payout to three days instead of giving people the full length of a quarantine “just like the premier’s doing.”

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“Let’s face it, [Doug Ford] is on day 10 of his quarantine and he hasn’t lost a penny,” she said, referring to his absence from the legislature due to being exposed to a staff member who later tested positive for COVID-19.

Dr. Adalsteinn Brown, co-chair of the Ontario COVID-19 Science Advisory Table, also told reporters at an afternoon news conference that the measure “is for a shorter period of time that we’d suggest is necessary.”

Read more:
Ontario COVID-19 modelling shows high-level cresting of cases, but ICUs and workplaces major issues

“[The program is] a good start, but it doesn’t reflect the assumptions that we’ve made based on the programs that we’ve seen elsewhere,” he told reporters.

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While some question the validity of sick pay for three days, freelance and gig workers Global News spoke with said they feel left out of consideration altogether.

“It feels just like another way that we have been forgotten,” said Toronto wedding and lifestyle photographer Anastasia Panakos, who owns Olive Photography.

“Small businesses have just been set aside.”

Panakos told Global News her schedule would normally be booked through the summer by now, but instead it’s reduced to, at most, 10 per cent of its normal capacity.

Excluded from Ontario’s paid sick day program, she said if she were to get sick and have to cancel one of the few bookings she has left, she would lose out entirely on a crucial paycheque.

She said she has already dealt with much confusion and frustration at the federal level where she learned she wouldn’t be able to apply for the Canada Recovery Sickness Benefit (CRSB) if she fell ill because she is already receiving the similarly named, but much different, Canada Recovery Benefit to keep her somewhat afloat.

Read more:
Canada still ‘a long way off’ from COVID-19 economic recovery, experts say

“I’m living off savings. Some of the supports that are provided are helpful, but they don’t even cover my mortgage,” said Panakos.

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Gig workers make their living differently than the average nine-to-five, Monday-to-Friday worker since they are often self-employed and get paid in larger, per-gig lump sums.

Toronto hair and make-up artist Sara Ortiz, who runs Makeup By Design by herself, said there is still work available, but that it is sparse even with modified operations and all necessary personal protective equipment.

She told Global News she is worried that, just like in other industries, workers will take risks if they’re not adequately covered by the government.

“It’s been over a year and there’s nothing in particular for freelancers, and sometimes people have to go to work even though they’re sick, which is not ideal,” said Ortiz .

“I do believe that there should be something more tailored to our needs. I know that might be difficult for the government because … not everybody earns money the same way, they don’t have the same amount of monthly income. But it should be something you can at least reach to and at least feel that you’re backed up.”

Global News contacted the Ontario Ministry of Labour to ask for comment. A spokesperson said the provincial program is only eligible for employees covered by the Employment Standards Act, adding those who are self-employed will need to apply for CRSB.

The spokesperson added the ministry “continues to examine how we can better support self-employed workers in our ongoing workforce development consultations.”





© 2021 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.



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The gig economy is making the future of work brighter for women – Fortune

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Victoria to begin work on recommendations arising from gig economy probe

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The Victorian government will provide AU$5 million, as part of its 2021-22 Budget, to create new standards aimed at providing more protection for gig economy workers.

The funding will be used to help implement 20 recommendations that arose from the Victorian government’s inquiry into the On-Demand Workforce, which uncovered how platforms have been deliberate in framing their arrangements with workers to avoid complying with workplace laws and paying associated costs. 

With the funding in tow, the Victorian government said it would “begin immediately” work on setting principles-based standards to provide fairer conditions for on-demand workers and ensure platforms operate transparently.

The AU$5 million will also be used to develop fair conduct and accountability standards together with industry and unions so there are shared principles on work status, fair conditions and pay, worker representation, and safety.

“All too often, gig economy workers have found themselves in a situation that looks and feels like an employment relationship. However, existing mechanisms to determine one’s work status — such as courts and tribunals — are often slow, costly and inaccessible,” the Victorian government said.

The inquiry, launched back in September 2018, specifically examined the treatment of workers and how they were remunerated. Chaired by former Fair Work Ombudsman, Natalie James, the inquiry was commissioned by the Victorian government following widespread concern over the wages and conditions offered to workers in the gig economy.  

Since the end of last year, the New South Wales government has also been investigating whether changes are needed within the gig economy. The investigation was prompted after a series of fatalities that involved food delivery riders occurred over a three-month period.

On the platform side, Menulog announced last month it would trial an employment model, and give its couriers access to insurance cover, fair pay, leave entitlements, and superannuation as part of efforts to “enhance the life standards of couriers”.

At the same time, other gig economy platforms, like Uber, have continued to deny having an employer-employee relationship with their drivers. Uber is currently facing a Federal Court appeal from a former delivery worker who alleges they were unfairly sacked and should be classified as an employee. 

Victorian courts receive AU$210 million package to expand IT and digital upgrades

Victoria’s legal system will receive a combined AU$210 million funding boost to help drive down its COVID-19 backlog and expand IT and digital upgrades.

Of that package, which is part of next week’s state budget, AU$34.8 million will be used to provide extra court resources, such as new case management programs, expanded online services, the appointment of additional judicial officers, court support staff, and remote-hearing services.

The Online Magistrates Court, which was expanded during the pandemic, will receive $40.9 million in funding, including two new magistrates and more courtrooms.

AU$56.7 million has also been allocated towards accelerating the digitisation of the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal (VCAT) so more of its hearings can be heard online.

“The coronavirus pandemic showed that court services can be delivered differently, and we want to see that continue — with more digital services delivering a faster and more flexible justice system for more Victorians,” Attorney-General Jaclyn Symes said.

During the pandemic, VCAT started using a new platform that digitised its paper files and processes, automatically allocated correspondence to the relevant case in Dynamics 365, managed payment and decision notifications, and managed information and work processes across the division. Prior to the shift, it was relying on paper-based and manual processes.

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After Jeopardy Hosting Gig, Star Trek’s LeVar Burton Landed Another Perfectly Suited TV Role

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In the upcoming episode, LeVar Burton will join Tian Richards’ Tom Swift by voicing Swift’s trusty AI and mentor, Barclay. According to the character description provided by the trade, Tom created Barclay when he was only eight years old, and the AI has been with the young man ever since. Barclay can also be transferred to Tom’s various devices, including his laptop, tablet, stopwatch and even the screen in his car. Interestingly enough, it sounds like Barclay will also have an emotional journey of his own to take.

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