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CFIB Study Misleads on Public-Sector Sick Days, Union Says

PSAC says business lobby group's report ignores effects of job cuts, sick workers

by Ben Sichel

(Photo via sxc.hu)
(Photo via sxc.hu)

HALIFAX -- The union representing tens of thousands of public-sector workers across Canada says the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) is misleading the public about sick days.

The CFIB’s report, Calling in Sick, claims that public-sector workers on average take between four and five more days off per year than private-sector workers for illness, disability and personal reasons.

But Jeannie Baldwin, executive vice-president for the Atlantic region of the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC), says this isn’t because public-sector employees “feel entitled to more time off,” as CFIB president Dan Kelly said in a press release this week.

“The fact that absenteeism in the private sector is low is nothing to be proud of,” says Baldwin. “The numbers are low because private sector employees are forced to go to work sick. They can’t afford to stay home.”

The PSAC’s media release also says that private-sector “employees [are] not benefiting from adequate sick leave provisions. They are forced to go to work while sick, putting the health of their coworkers at risk.”

As well, notes the release, days off taken for long-term disability are not tracked in the private sector in the same way as in the public sector, further skewing the numbers.

In an op-ed piece recently published on the PSAC website, national president Robyn Benson says that uncertainty about public service cuts in recent months has led to a huge “spike in mental health problems” among public servants.

This “toxic environment” in the workplace is taking a huge toll on workers, says the PSAC.

“[T]he CFIB overlooks a key factor in the increase in sick leave in the federal public service,” says Jeannie Baldwin. “And that is the rise in mental illness and stress-related sickness due to overwhelming job insecurity.”

Since the 2012 federal budget 19,355 PSAC members (out of about 172,000 nationwide) have received Work Force Adjustment notices, known as ‘affected’ letters, informing them they may lose their jobs.

In the Atlantic region, a recent report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives says federal public-sector job cuts will have a disproportionate effect, with more than 4,400 employees put out of work by 2015. Besides direct job losses, the cuts will have a negative impact on public services remaining employees are able to deliver.

PSAC’s media release also says that contrary to the CFIB’s assertions, “sick leave cannot be cashed and is not a liability for the taxpayer.” 

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Topics: Labour
398 words


  Another reason that workers


Another reason that workers use sick time has to do with the fact that most work in a capitalist society is completely meaningless.  We go to work every day, five days a week.  Everything we do during this time at work is supervised. We have to be careful how many times a day we piss or have a shit.  We have to ask for permission to make a "personal" call home.  It's bullshit.  In a just world workers would not be supervised this way.  We would all have tasks to do and cooperatively, would do them.  

We should also remember that a majority of jobs that are out there are absolutly useless jobs.  For example, the finance industry, or the public relations/advertising industry.  What value do these industries actually create? They do not produce anything or provide real services to anyone.  

If we took a majority of workers who worked in the financial and public relations/advertising industries, as well as unemployed workers, and created meaningful work for them to do, like created more jobs in Education, healthcare, child care, or recreation, etc... we could then decrease the amount of hours all workers worked, creating more free time to spend with our friends and lovers, and still producing the things, as well as services, we value.

To even discuss sick time as a problem in a capitalist society, where workers are constantly under pressure to work harder for less, is like discussing a paper cut while you have cancer. Fuck the paper cut, cure the cancer!

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