Manitoba premier says store clerks, child-care workers and more will get top-up

WINNIPEG — Store clerks, child-care workers, bus drivers, jail guards and others in Manitoba will qualify for a COVID-19 wage top-up if they've been earning less than $2,500 a month, the provincial government announced Tuesday.

Premier Brian Pallister outlined details of a plan announced last month to provide extra money to front-line employees in a broad range of sectors who have continued to work during the pandemic.

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"We wanted to make sure that we had a fair plan that compensated Manitobans for their additional risks, as much as could be done fairly," Pallister said.

The low-income program was initially announced by the federal government. Three-quarters of the money will come from Ottawa but the provinces get to determine which workers will qualify.

Pallister said unions and business groups helped develop the list, which also includes some nurses, health-care aides, cashiers, cooks and others.

The exact dollar amount is to be determined later, depending on how many people qualify. Pallister said he expects about 100,000 workers will get a one-time payment of roughly $1,000.

The money is only available to people who have earned less than $2,500 a month since March while continuing to work an average of 20 hours a week or more.

Some labour leaders were not happy with the package. The Manitoba Nurses Union said the income cap excludes most of its members.

"Many other provincial governments, including B.C., Ontario and Quebec, have offered reasonable hourly top-ups to nurses and other health care workers, and that’s exactly what (we) called for," union president Darlene Jackson said in a written statement.

The Manitoba Association of Health Care Professionals, which represents paramedics and other workers, said the one-time payments won't do anything to increase the safety of people on the front lines of the pandemic.

Pallister's announcement came as public health officials announced two additional cases of COVID 19 — two men in their 40s from the Southern health region. Manitoba has seen zero or single-digit daily increases in recent weeks, and the total of confirmed and probable cases Tuesday stood at 297.

Seven people have died in Manitoba from the novel coronavirus since the pandemic began. Health officials said 278 people have recovered and 12 cases remained active.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published June 2, 2020

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