Government expands Risk Recognition Program, still excludes far too many essential workers
Jun 17, 2020
Yesterday, the government announced it would be expanding their Risk Recognition Program by increasing the maximum income threshold for essential workers – those who earned a total pre-tax employment income of $12,500 during the 2.5-month eligibility period (excluding overtime) will now be eligible to apply.
“This means many more of our members will qualify for a “risk recognition payment,” said MGEU President Michelle Gawronsky. “Since the government expressed a willingness to explore some kind of “pandemic pay” for essential workers, our union has made it clear that such a program must cover as many workers who worked with the public, patients, and inmates through the pandemic as possible.”
During the government’s consultations with unions, businesses and community leaders, the MGEU maintained that there should be no income threshold at all. Gawronsky also wrote to Finance Minister, Scott Fielding, and contacted his office several times to make the case for including more workers who have worked through the pandemic to keep Manitoba going.
“We argued strongly against limiting eligibility based on income, and I urged consideration of many workers whose jobs fit the government’s objectives for the program but appear not to have been included in the final program eligibility criteria,” Gawronsky said. “The government has said this risk recognition payment is not supposed to be a paycheque or a pay “top-up.” It is recognition for work done. That’s why all workers who worked at heightened risk through the early weeks of the pandemic should be included.”
In the end, she added, despite talking a good game about “consultation,” the government ultimately did not listen and followed its own agenda.
“Thanks to the efforts of Manitoba unions like ours over the past few weeks, we have managed to, at least, push them towards a limited expansion of the program,” Gawronsky said. “We have yet to hear back from Minister Fielding about the many workers who met the pandemic challenge by showing up for work, but who remain unrecognized by even the expanded risk recognition payment program.”
All MGEU members who think they may be eligible are encouraged to apply for the Risk Recognition Program. The deadline has been extended to June 29, 2020 at noon.