October 1, 2020 is the International Day of Older Persons. Today, we are mindful of the toll taken by COVID-19 on retirees, long-term care residents, and all older people. We call on all levels of government to ensure their health and safety, end the failed experiment of for-profit long-term care, and ensure universal accessibility to the quality public services they depend on.

“Even before the pandemic, cuts to Ontario’s budget and years of monetizing long-term care created severe hardship for many retirees,” said Stephen Seaborn, Chair of the CUPE Ontario Retirees Network. “Before retiring we helped to build and deliver the essential services our communities need, but as we’ve aged out of the workforce the Ford Conservatives have rolled out cuts to our programs. We’ve seen reduced staffing levels in long-term care, massive health care cuts, the elimination of important therapies and programs covered by OHIP. We’ve suffered, our families have suffered, and our communities are suffering.”

“The Ford Conservatives’ and Liberals’ cuts wreaked havoc in Ontario—setting the stage for the disastrous loss of life that has afflicted long-term care homes and older persons across the province” added Fred Hahn, CUPE Ontario President. “Cuts to healthcare and social services impact us all but have had a disproportionate impact on older persons—and particularly those from racialized communities.”

CUPE Ontario is advocating vigorously for improved care standards, adequate Personal Protective Equipment, and the abolition of profit-taking in the long-term care sector, where we represent 35,000 workers. “The Ford Conservatives have failed miserably to protect our long-term care residents and staff from this pandemic, added Candace Rennick, Secretary-Treasurer of CUPE Ontario. “But we’ve been ringing the alarm bell about the crisis in long-term care for more than a decade. Both the Conservatives, and the for-profit operators, need to be held accountable for this broken system. The time for structural reform is long overdue. We need Time to Care: four hours of care per resident per day, and we need a public system—now.”

To thrive in retirement requires the flourishing of our communities, and older persons require good, publicly funded, and publicly delivered services. CUPE Ontario retirees remain committed labour activists, and are proud to continue fighting for better living conditions for older persons and a better Ontario for all. On the International Day of Older Persons, CUPE Ontario salutes all retirees and reaffirms our solidarity: we are with you in this fight.