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TORONTO, Ont. – The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario is proposing three new policy shifts that the government must make if it is serious about its poverty reduction strategy. These shifts include an end to low wage policies, an end to user fees and taxes for low-income people, and creative agreements with the public sector to address issues such as kids at risk and affordable housing, according to CUPE Ontario President Sid Ryan, who made a deputation at the province’s pre-budget hearings today.

“The government can’t be calling for reductions in poverty and, on the other hand, be promoting low wage policies,” Ryan told members of the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs. “Given that a union job is the number one poverty fighter, this government needs to restore card-check based certification to make it easier for workers to join a union.“ Ryan cited the province’s home care competitive bidding policy as another low wage policy. Along with forcing frequent job changes, average wages for home care workers are approximately $12 an hour with little or no benefits, about $6 an hour less than what they would earn in a hospital.

The second policy shift proposed by CUPE Ontario would end all public sector user fees and taxes for families under the low-income cut off. “Families need free access to things like public transit to get to school and jobs, medical services such as eye, dental and drug programs, free day care and access to early education opportunities in order to have a chance to break the cycle of poverty,” said Ryan.

CUPE Ontario’s third proposed policy shift is to open up the public sector in various tri-partite agreements to address aspects of poverty like job training and mentorship for young people at risk. As an example, Ryan cited the agreement between CUPE, the Saskatchewan Association of Health Organizations and the Saskatchewan government that has increased Aboriginal representation in the health care workforce from 1% to 5% in four years.

Such agreements could also offer a potential solution for investment in affordable housing like co-ops. “CUPE Ontario has long fought against the investment of workers’ pension funds in privatization and P3 schemes,” said Ryan. “Instead of investing our pension funds in bad public and financial policies, we invite the government to work with us to fund public infrastructure like housing for low-income Ontarians.”

CUPE Ontario is challenging every provincial ministry to review its policies and develop plans that will support a decent standard of living for workers and bring down all barriers to services needed by low-income and welfare recipients.

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For further information, contact:

Valerie Dugale CUPE Communications  647-225-3685
Sid Ryan  CUPE Ontario President  416-209-0066