We are all in this together.
How many times have you heard that from the beginning of the pandemic?
The idea was that we all needed to do our part, suffer a little for the greater good. Sadly, some have had to suffer more than others.
While private sector workers across many industries lost jobs, saw reduced hours or reduced wages, public sector workers did not. New figures from the federal government show a shockingly high number of workers staying at home and getting paid despite not working.
At the height of the pandemic shutdown in early April, 58,546 federal civil servants were at home on paid leave under what is called a 699, paid leave other. This doesn’t include people on sick leave, personal leave or off the job for any other reason.
“Some public servants experienced challenges in being able to work, whether because they were sick or at risk of getting sick, they didn’t have childcare, or couldn’t access their IT network,” the government says on their website.
The number of workers on paid leave due to COVID-19 fluctuated up and down over the course of the summer before dropping to 8,483 by Sept. 6, the last day the government has reported on.
It’s a far cry from the experience of many private sector workers during the pandemic. Instead of being sent home with pay because they couldn’t log onto their IT networks, many were simply sent home without a job. According to Statistics Canada, between February and April, 21.8% of private sector workers across Canada lost their jobs compared to just 5.6% of all civil servants — federal, provincial and municipal.
Put into hard numbers, while 58,546 federal civil servants stayed home with pay while not working, 2,704,000 private sector workers lost their jobs. The latest jobs report shows that there are now more people working in the public sector than there were before the pandemic hit, while more than half a million private sector workers are still unemployed.
In addition to those that lost their jobs, another 2.8 million lost hours or saw reduced wages.
And it’s happening again, as governments across the country impose more restrictions for the second wave.
It’s easy for Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to cheer this on as he did recently, imploring premiers to shut businesses. He doesn’t have to make the call, he doesn’t have to worry about losing his paycheque and the federal workers under him will get paid whether they are working or not.
“I would hope that no leader in our country is easing public health vigilance because they feel pressure not to shut down businesses or slow down our economy,” Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said last week.
It’s not worry about slowing the economy, it’s worry about people being able to pay their bills. Yes, the federal government has income supports but living off $2,000 a month for your whole family when your usual income and bills are much higher can only go on for so long.
Federal workers don’t feel this pain.
I understand that there are many civil servants, at all levels, working harder than ever due to COVID-19. We have also always known that there were tens of thousands not working and getting paid.
Prime Minister Trudeau likes to talk about “inequities” in the system. This is one of them that neither he, nor those that work for him, will ever experience.
We aren’t all in this together and never were.