Toronto, ON– With COVID-19 cases spiking on multiple Ontario post-secondary campuses, Premier Doug Ford’s Conservative government needs to move past deflecting blame for its own failures and focus on keeping Ontarians safe, the Chair of CUPE Ontario’s University Workers’ Coordinating Committee (OUWCC) warned today.
“Time and again, in recent days, we are seeing the Ford Conservatives take the same approach of scapegoating and threatening the very people they’ve placed in impossible situations, instead of actually doing the job they were elected to do—namely, keeping Ontarians safe during a crisis,” said OUWCC Chair David Simao.
“Folksy comments about irresponsible behaviour are no substitute for an effective plan for keeping people safe. Every Ontarian deserves better from their government,” he added.
Simao’s remarks follow a week in which several universities announced outbreaks of COVID-19, most notably at the University of Western Ontario in London, where 28 members of the campus community have recently tested positive.
In the absence of clear plan for the university sector to operate safely, Premier Doug Ford has instead focused on isolated incidents of students failing to obey social distancing rules.
“The problem here isn’t a lack of compliance with the guidelines. By and large, most people are abiding by them. Infections are occurring despite this, which suggests the guidelines this government has put forward are problem,” said Simao.
“The Ford Conservatives know full well that the provincial government has the responsibility, power and resources to help our communities through reopening university campuses. Instead, we see them using a familiar playbook—demanding action, shirking responsibility, and looking for someone else to blame when their inaction as a government inevitably has consequences like a spike in COVID infections,” he added.
“We have called on the Province to call together stakeholders and develop a comprehensive and consistent plan for post secondary education, along with the additional resources needed to implement that plan,” said Fred Hahn, CUPE Ontario President. Our members at universities know how to do their jobs safely. Students want to be safe. But having a disorganized return, leaving institutions to come up with their own, and different, guidelines, and refusing to infuse additional money needed has led us to what we are seeing today, not the individual actions of a few.”
The union notes that Ontarians under the age of 40, are also the most likely to not have paid caregiver and sick days, most likely to be performing the essential tasks that have kept this province moving for the past six months, and are most likely have to physically attend a work site and risk exposure to COVID. That includes postsecondary students, many of whom work alongside their studies to pay for the highest priced post secondary education in the country.
Hahn urged the Premier and his Cabinet to “move beyond the scapegoating and blame-deflection and get serious about a plan that protects every Ontarian, including the thousands of workers who have stepped up and gone above and beyond to keep this province moving forward during the pandemic. They are truly heroes.”
With more than 30,000 members, OUWCC is the voice for CUPE’s university workers in Ontario.
For more information, please contact:
David Simao, OUWCC Chair 613-668-9010,
Fred Hahn, CUPE Ontario President, 416-540-3979,
Kevin Wilson, CUPE Communications, 416-821-6641