CUPE Ontario, representing 280,000 public sector workers, calls for more measures to support the province’s workers and for increased resources from the Ontario Government to support communities affected by COVID-19, in response to the Ontario Government’s announcement.
"Delaying next week’s budget was clearly necessary," said Fred Hahn, CUPE Ontario President, about the province’s plan to release a fiscal update on March 25 instead of the planned budget. "There’s no way a provincial budget next week would be able to fully address the needs of communities during this time when things are changing so quickly. But so far, the Ford Conservatives haven’t offered measures that match the magnitude of what workers are facing or demonstrated that next week’s update will support communities with the investments we need."
CUPE Ontario says that plans announced so far don’t go nearly far enough. The government announced a $10-million public awareness campaign, an expansion of lab testing capacity, a $100-million contingency fund, and that legislation is being drafted that removes requirements for sick notes and protects jobs in some way.
"The contingency fund must be a larger investment to fully support workers, many of whom are our members who continue to provide vital public services across the Ontario," said Candace Rennick, CUPE Ontario Secretary Treasurer. "Now is the time for Ford to recognize that all workers must have access to paid sick days and take immediate steps to make that happen. We must expand this support to meet the needs imposed by the pandemic."
Toronto’s Mayor, John Tory, announced that City employees will be protected from layoffs due to the cancellation of programs and will be paid for their shifts. "These are the types of measures we need to see from the province," said Hahn. "Unpaid leave that isn’t even extended to everyone impacted by this crisis isn’t good enough. If Toronto can announce these measures, and Alberta can provide 14 days of paid leave for workers, then we must do the same across Ontario."
"We also have to remember that it’s the most vulnerable residents who will be impacted the most," said Hahn, advocating for a response that recognizes Ontarians the province didn’t mentioned in their announcement. CUPE Ontario, for instance, says that Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program payments must be increased, and that the government should extend support to migrant workers who are excluded from securing EI benefits.
CUPE Ontario is also calling on the Ontario government to advocate to the Federal Government to fully remove the two-week waiting period for Employment Insurance benefits for everyone impacted by closures of their workplaces and enhance EI payments.
"The Ford Conservatives have slashed taxes for the wealthiest residents and corporations, which has then been used as an excuse to weaken or even eliminate the services we all need," said Hahn, advocating for investments that support provincially-funded organizations to ensure workers affected by COVID-19 are paid. "We need to push back against their attempts to convince us that we can’t afford supporting Ontarians now and use this opportunity to explore options to increase funding so no one’s left behind."
"One thing all of us have learned – maybe the hard way – is that we are all in this together," said Hahn. "When we support one of us, it benefits us all."
Daniel Tseghay, CUPE Communications, 647-220-9739, firstname.lastname@example.org