It’s been a year like no other. We’ve lost more than 1.5 million people worldwide to COVID-19, and over 4,000 people in Ontario alone. We’re seeing an average of 2,000 new cases every single day in the province, putting an incredible strain on our health care system.
So many people in our communities have lost their jobs and their homes – or are worried about losing them.
The 280,000 members of CUPE Ontario – workers on the frontlines keeping us safe and healthy – are among those most jeopardized by this crisis. We’ve lost a number of members to COVID-19, the majority of whom were racialized healthcare workers, although most recently we lost our first education worker to the pandemic. Many more have contracted the virus while delivering the critical services Ontarians rely on. This all happened while CUPE Ontario Members continued to do the most important work without the real support and resources they need – without unfettered access to the appropriate PPE the Ford Conservatives could ensure if they took this crisis seriously.
What we’ve learned over the course of this crisis is that while the pandemic’s existence was beyond our control, governments at all levels can make choices about how to handle it. And the fact is that our provincial government has made a series of choices that have only made things worse in the second wave.
The Ford Conservatives passed Bill 195, which official ended the “State of Emergency” declared in March but allowing the employers to continue override our collective agreements indefinitely – something only made possible by a State of Emergency.
The Ford Conservatives used the chaos of the pandemic to usher in a host of tax cuts for corporations and the wealthiest Ontarians while flatlining funding for the services we rely on – and failing to offer robust income supports for people who’ve lost their jobs, or ensure that no one loses their homes during this crisis.
The funding shortfall means personal support workers and staff in long-term care aren’t seeing additional funding in the most recent Ontario budget to ensure four-hours of direct, hands on care. Education workers who protect our schools, keeping them safe and clean while supporting students’ learning, will see no new pandemic funding to reduce class sizes or improve ventilation. There’ll be no support for Ontario’s universities, whose workers are critical to our economic recovery, even though they are dealing with both extra COVID-19 expenditures and decreased revenue due to the loss of international students. And social service workers — supporting Ontarians in child-care centres, child protection agencies, developmental services, and community agencies which have been underfunded for years — will not see the permanent funding supports needed to help Ontarians recover.
But in the face of all these challenges, the pandemic as well as this government’s failures, CUPE Ontario’s 280,000 members – alongside so many more Ontarians – have persevered and fought back.
We launched a campaign called “Restore Our Rights” to oppose the violation of our collective agreements.
- We exposed Ford’s spin about their spending, revealing that the level of funding is not what we need it to be and that much of it is going to the private sector.
- We launched Care Not Profits with SEIU Healthcare and Unifor, calling for long-term care to be publicly delivered and for profit to be taken out of care.
- We launched campaigns to call for developmental services workers to receive PPE and pandemic pay.
- We pushed for financial supports and better safety measures in child care centres.
- We called on the province, jointly with employers for the first time, to financially support municipalities – and won matching of federal money.
- We have been doing extensive work to pressure the Ford Conservatives to provide the necessary funding and supports to safely reopen schools; and for Universities.
- And we demanded that the Ford Conservatives establish province-wide standards to ensure safety previous to any reopening.
And during these challenging times, we have seen real victories. Finally, the Government of Ontario acknowledged the need for 4 hours of hands on care to be the standard in Long Term Care Facilities – something our members and others have been campaigning on for more than a decade. CUPE members are fighting back and winning at the bargaining table. One example is CUPE Local 5257, Child Care and Instructors at Blaisdale Montessori School in Durham region, who refused to accept a wage freeze from their employer, refused to accept that more than half of their members made minimum wage, and who went on strike to put pressure on their employer and who won increases through their collective action.
Our collective efforts have made an impact – we’ve been able to work with others to shift the Ford Conservatives and Employers even in a pandemic. But the work is certainly not done. We have more to do in 2021.
But, today, as we enter the Holiday Season and the 2020 is coming to an end, we send our thanks to the members who’ve kept our communities functioning and safe.
We send thanks to the members who will be working over the holidays as snow plow operators; paramedics; hospital, long-term care and homecare workers; transit operators; hydro workers; development services workers, shelter support staff, and so many other critically important jobs!
A special thank you to the staff of CUPE – all the National Staff who work with locals; the specialists in research, communications, health & safety and so many others, the administrative staff and directors; and to all the staff at CUPE Ontario who work to support the political work of our union. You are all amazing and so deeply appreciated!
We hope that every one of our members and staff find some time to rest and recover during the coming weeks. And to experience all the joy and wonder that this time of year can bring to us all.
It’s been a hard year, but it’s our collective resolve that helped get us through it. In 2021 and beyond, we will be reinforced by our growing collective power, the solidarity of our union, and the work we do in coalition with others to fight for a better world.
With Solidarity and Respect, and on behalf our the CUPE Ontario Executive Board, we send the very best wishes for the New Year.
Fred & Candace
Fred Hahn Candace Rennick
President Secretary Treasurer