rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

It's enough to make you sick: Sue-Ann Levy, the Toronto Sun and the attack on workers

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca in its summer fundraiser today for as little as $1 per month!

Sue-Ann Levy, the perpetually grotesque enemy of working people that the Toronto Sun pays good money to run down those who actually work for a living, penned an opinion piece recently spouting the Canadian Taxpayers Federation line that Ontario government employees are somehow abusing the system by calling in sick more than do their private sector counterparts.

She spouts a bunch of statistics that, hopefully correctly, show that workers who are able to, do in fact call in sick, though she frames this, of course, as workers somehow "shirking" work because the government or unions "let them".

It is part of a wide ranging, right-wing attack on the very idea that workers have a right to anything at all and is part of an ongoing attempt to facilitate a culture that regards labour standards and laws requiring employers to act with basic decency as somehow undermining capitalism and freedom.

This is regularly done by attempting to pit workers subject to direct abuse by their bosses against those who have at least some protection as a result of unions or regulations passed by governments.

It is time, quickly and unapologetically, to put this right-wing and terribly destructive, damaging and dangerous threat to public health to rest once and for all.

The problem is not that public sector workers are taking off too many sick days. The problem is that private sector workers are being forced to work when they are sick.

As with so many things in this era of reaction, a propaganda campaign is being waged to make it out that somehow "calling in sick" more is a sign of privilege and entitlement as opposed to pointing out the fact that some people are forced to work despite actually being sick.

If you are not protected by a union contract or if you do not work for the government the odds are you will be forced to work when sick, to work with people who are sick and to face firing or no pay when you are so sick that you stand up and are unwilling to cave into the pressure that your private sector employer will place on you to work when you are sick.

You are, all too often, not only working while sick, you are making your fellow workers sick and, if you are in a service job, making the public sick, even entitled columnists like Sue Ann Levy.

Anyone who has actually worked in a non-union, lower paying, private sector environment knows that sick pay almost always is not a reality, that employers regularly pressure workers to work when they are too ill to, that workers will work when they should not as they have no financial choice, that parents of sick children will be forced to take their children to work, exposing their co-workers to whatever the child is ill with, because they cannot afford to and do not have the right to take a sick day at home with an ill child. 

I worked for a private transportation company through most of the '90s. I had a boss whose understanding of labour relations was that because he allegedly came in when he was sick, so should all his workers, despite the fact that they made a fraction of what he did and despite the fact they had no ownership in the company at all. 

Sick pay simply did not exist. If you called in sick, you lost a day's pay.

Given that few were making anything approaching a solid wage, a day's pay was a lot.

That is the reality of why private sector workers call in sick less. It is not because they get sick less. It is not because union or public sector workers are more "entitled". It is because private sector workers with no protection are terrified of losing their jobs or not getting paid and know full well that they will lose them if they call in sick too often.

The Sue-Ann Levys and Toronto Suns enable the worst sadism of capitalism. They seem to think the problem is not that most workers have no serious right to refuse to work when ill, but rather that some do.

It's enough to make you sick.

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.


We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:


  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.


  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.