CLAC Supports Front-line Grocery Store Workers by Saying No to Removing Holidays
Alexandria, ON—The Ontario government is suggesting it may remove six of the nine public holidays for the retail sector as early as this summer. The idea was leaked in a Toronto Star article on June 19 in which the newspaper reported that the province is considering an amendment to the Retail Business Holiday Act (RBHA) as a way to address the economic lag resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
CLAC, a union that represents more than 60,000 workers in Canada, says that this is a highly inappropriate way to stimulate the economy and unfairly puts the interests of retail owners before those of hard-working employees and their families.
Currently, the RBHA requires retail businesses to close on nine holidays: New Years Day, Family Day, Good Friday, Easter Sunday, Victoria Day, Canada Day, Labour Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day. The amendment will form part of a two-year pilot program. Only Good Friday, Canada Day, and Christmas Day would be days on which businesses must remain closed. The proposal would come into effect immediately upon passage of a bill, which would likely be introduced sometime this summer.
“Taking away our public holidays is a terrible idea,” says Mark Desjardins, a CLAC steward and long term employee at Chartrand’s Your Independent Grocer in Alexandria. “Since COVID started, we stepped up to serve the members of our community, and now the government is thanking us by taking away our public holidays. This feels like a punishment, and it will hurt the workers.”
Chartrand’s employs over 80 CLAC members in Alexandria who have put themselves on the front lines in a community that, with no other grocery stores, depends on these workers to maintain the food supply chain.
“Retail grocery store workers have been at the forefront of the COVID-19 pandemic while grocery stores have done exceedingly well with boosted sales revenues,” says Jennifer Kennedy, CLAC representative. “It seems there are some who are trying to gain self-serving benefit from this crisis, and that does not serve the interests of the public.“
If the new bill passes, municipalities will have to start from scratch to create bylaws to be exempt from the new amendments. CLAC is committed to working with the Township of North Glengarry to craft a new bylaw.