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Canada will boost the pay of frontline and essential workers during the coronavirus pandemic in a $4 billion Canadian dollar ($2.85 billion USD) deal, the government announced.

Labor leaders applauded the federal government’s contribution of nearly 75 percent of the total to the effort, which Prime Minister Justin Trudeau called “deserved.”

The agreement will see the remaining 25 percent of the deal funded by the various provinces and territories, who will then be able to independently decide who will qualify for the pay bumps.

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“The bottom line is this: if you’re risking your health to keep this country moving and you’re making minimum wage, you deserve a raise,” Trudeau said during his daily news conference.

“We know, however, that once we get through this, in the months and years to come, we’re also going to have to have reflections about how we manage and how we maintain our long-term care facilities, how we support essential workers who are very low paid, how we move forward as a society to make sure that our vulnerable are properly taken care of and properly rewarded for the important work they do.”

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A spokesperson for Trudeau’s office told the Global News the deal is “related to the pandemic,” highlighting that the provinces have already set out such deadlines themselves.

The Saskatchewan government recently announced that employees making less than $2,500 a month while working with vulnerable people are eligible for a top-up of $400 a month for 16 weeks, which includes employees at care homes, daycares and shelters.

Ontario has worked on a $4-per-hour increase for frontline workers at care homes, retirement homes and emergency shelters, among other facilities. The increase would be valid until sometime in August.

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“The $4 is the start of what the permanent wages of these front-line workers should be,” said Sharleen Stewart, president of SEIU Healthcare, a national health care union. “They still have a distance to go, in my opinion … $15, $16 an hour is not what kind of a living wage they should be having.”



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