B.C.'s public-sector union calls for a coronavirus freeze on rent and mortgage payments

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      If you’re an employee working in the service sector, tourism industry, gig economy, or any one of countless other fields, the coronavirus may by now be putting a frightening squeeze on your finances.

      The B.C. Government Employees Union (BCGEU) has heard that from its 80,000 members throughout tVCH/VCHH/he province and has called for a freeze on rent and mortgage payments for sick or self-isolating employees.

      "We all have a part to play in flattening the curve—workers, employers, and governments," said BCGEU Stephanie Smith, quoted in a media release. "Our federal and provincial governments have an opportunity right now to mitigate one of the major economic pressures that force people to choose to keep working even if they have been exposed to COVID-19 or are symptomatic."

      The request only pertains to public employees, but it could spark a conversation about the larger rent and mortgage economy as a whole. Countless people’s incomes are hurting under the stress of COVID-19 and social-distancing recommendations. Meanwhile, everyone still has bills to pay.

      The BCGEU’s media release emphasizes that employers and employees should follow the World Health Organization’s recommendations on social distancing and self-isolation and urges the Canadian and B.C. governments to encourage everyone to do that by placing a temporary freeze on housing bills.

      "The BCGEU has said from the beginning of this outbreak that protection of workers must be a central plank of government response—that's why we called for an end to doctors' notes as well as paid sick leave and a host of other worker-focused measures," Smith said. "The BCGEU is urging our members and all working people to trust the science and follow public health recommendations. The federal and provincial governments could support our message by suspending mortgage and rent payments during the COVID-19 pandemic to make sure working people can afford to do the right thing."

      The total number of COVID-19 cases in B.C. stands at 103, according to Vancouver Coastal Health’s latest update on the issue. Three people have died.

      “Currently, there are six people in acute care, five have fully recovered and all others are self-isolating at home,” VCH’s March 16 update reads.

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