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BCGEU calls for suspension of rent and mortgage payments for sick/self-isolating workers during COVID-19 pandemic - BCGEU

Burnaby, B.C. – In response to the World Health Organization declaring COVID-19 a "pandemic" and public health experts recommending social distancing including self-isolation for exposed or symptomatic people, the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU) is calling on federal and provincial governments to immediately suspend all mortgage and rent payments until the pandemic is over.

"The BCGEU has said from the beginning of this outbreak that protection of workers must be a central plank of government response-that's why we called for an end to doctors' notes as well as paid sick leave and a host of other worker-focused measures," said Stephanie Smith. "The BCGEU is urging our members and all working people to trust the science and follow public health recommendations. The federal and provincial governments could support our message by suspending mortgage and rent payments during the COVID-19 pandemic to make sure working people can afford to do the right thing."

Recent research from the 2019 annual BDO Affordability Index shows that more than half of Canadians are living paycheque to paycheque. The public health measures already announced-such as cancellation of large gatherings, travel advisories, and social distancing measures-mean some British Columbians are working less or not at all. As the pandemic evolves those impacts are expected to get worse, and more working people will be unable to make mortgage and rent payments.

"We all have a part to play in flattening the curve-workers, employers, and governments," said Smith. "Our federal and provincial governments have an opportunity right now to mitigate one of the major economic pressures that force people to choose to keep working even if they have been exposed to COVID-19 or are symptomatic."

Two days after announcing the $1-billion fund to address the COVID-19 pandemic, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau told reporters he empathized with Canadians' worries and assured that the federal government would assist financially but has yet to suggest what that assistance will look like. More details are expected after the First Ministers' Meeting with the Prime Minister later today.

The BCGEU is one of the largest, most diverse and fastest growing unions in B.C. with more than 80,000 members working in almost every community and economic sector in the province.