The Yukon Employees’ Union (YEU) is anonymously sharing the stories of employees maneuvering the pandemic without paid leave.
“We’ve been hearing from a lot of employees — whether they be unionized members or from the private sector, and probably more from the private sector — where there are no paid leave provisions,” YEU President Steve Geick said.
“It puts people in a very difficult spot.”
The campaign, Time Out Yukon, will share the real-life experiences of Yukoners struggling to follow public health guidelines with insufficient leave provisions.
The stories will be shared on timeoutyukon.com, as well as on social media channels under the hashtag #TimeOutYukon. The full website, which currently hosts an online submission form, will launch with published stories later this week.
“We have received submissions from workers facing really difficult times, and others who are celebrating the flexibility and leadership their employers have shown,” said Deborah Turner-Davis, communications officer for the YEU.
“We’ve also had submissions from employers doing their best to provide human solutions that don’t cost much to keep their workforce mentally and physically well, while keeping the lights on and the business running.”
Turner-Davis shared several of the stories submitted so far, which conceal the identities of the afflicted.
One “young worker” said they weren’t provided with paid sick leave from their part-time service job when they were identified as a close contact of a COVID-19 case. After taking time off to receive a test and self-isolate, they are now “very concerned about making rent.”
The worker said their employer didn’t prioritize applying for the Yukon government’s paid sick leave rebate. Even if that rebate was applied for, it would only be paid after the employer could provide proof of lost wages.
Another story saw two parents who initially worked from home but were refused remote work in the second wave of the pandemic. When their child’s daycare experienced COVID-19 exposure, the parents were forced to self-isolate but were still refused a remote work option by their employers.
That means the parents were forced to exhaust their vacation and sick days to stay home, despite their ability to work. Both parents have now depleted their available days of paid leave, and will face lost wages if they’re forced to isolate again.
In a third story, a health care worker was forced to take off small chunks of every work day to drive their children “from one hastily arranged family care or day camp to another as childcare spots were few.”
By June, the health care worker had run out of paid leave days. They began using paid leave days from 2021-22 and are running out of options outside of losing pay.
Geick said he hopes sharing employees’ stories, as well as the solutions found by some employers, will push solutions territory-wide.
“It’s very important, I think, to hear both what employers are doing and the stories from the employees, because some of them are quite dramatic,” Geick said.
Geick noted that Yukoners losing pay due to COVID-related leave will have an effect on the local economy.
“That trickles down into the community, because when people are losing pay, they don’t have the money to spend with local businesses,” he said.
Contact Gabrielle Plonka at firstname.lastname@example.org