Keep Ontarians Protected and Build a Better Economy
Unifor recommends the Ontario government focus on two simultaneous goals for budget 2020: keep Ontarians protected through the coronavirus pandemic and ensure we build a better Ontario coming out of this crisis.
Keep Ontarians Protected
The second wave of the coronavirus pandemic is upon us. The first wave and subsequent months of flattening the curve required intense advocacy on behalf of workers and communities to ensure appropriate health protocols were implemented. Even still people were left unprotected, long-term care residents and workers faced acute risk and many laid-off workers lost their employer sponsored health insurance coverage. Ontario must ensure that chaos is not repeated. Unifor recommends the following:
- Fix long-term care:
- Increase funding to meet the minimum standard of 4 hours of direct care per day;
- Take measures to phase out for-profit long-term care homes and transition toward community-based, publicly-owned or non-profit homes;
- Extend the recently announced wage top-up to all front-line health care workers and workplaces like retirement homes.
- Invest in health care and hospitals:
- Make the additional $2 billion invested in the health care sector in response to COVID-19 permanent as a first step in restoring funding that was cut earlier in this government’s mandate;
- Move forward without delay on the implementation of a universal pharmacare program in partnership with the Federal government as committed to in the Speech from the Throne.
- Protect child care and education workers, students and children:
- Ensuring continued access to personal protective equipment and enhanced health and safety measures in child care centres and schools across the province;
- Mandating health and safety measures on school buses including mask requirements, passenger limits and sanitization protocols;
- Transferring the $2.6 billion in unallocated COVID-related spending to the education system to reduce class sizes, and increase and reinforce health and safety protocols.
- Institute a minimum of 7 days paid sick leave for all workers in Ontario.
Build a Better Ontario
The coronavirus has underscored some dysfunctions in Ontario’s economy that must be corrected including the fact that low-waged workers are undervalued and underpaid; a strong manufacturing sector is an essential component of rapid crisis response; and women and young parents need an affordable and accessible child care system in order to return to work and keep the Ontario economy moving. It is imperative these lessons are heeded. Unifor recommends government:
- Ensure essential service workers are paid according to the value they bring to society by:
- Raising the minimum wage to 60% of the median wage for full-time workers. Based on this benchmark, Ontario’s 2020 minimum wage would be $15.86;
- Providing additional funding to increase the wages of low-wage workers in the broader public sector including child care workers, social service workers, health care workers, and education sector workers.
- Invest in Ontario’s manufacturing sector:
- Commit the one-third share of funding to purchase transit vehicles approved by the TTC and Toronto City Council earlier this year, including street and subway cars made in Thunder Bay, and made-in-Canada electric buses;
- Collaborate with federal and municipal governments in a comprehensive and targeted auto development strategy that facilitates high value investments in zero emission vehicle (ZEV) product and component part programs alongside internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle and powertrain programs. Ontario must continue investing in EV infrastructure and consumer incentives.
- Build critical infrastructure, physical and social, with a focus on environmental sustainability:
- Move forward without delay on the implementation of a universal child care program in partnership with the Federal Government as committed to in the Speech from the Throne;
- Remove the regressive restrictions on the safe restart money allocated for transit and invest new public money to maintain high quality, robust, equitable and affordable public transit infrastructure;
- Invest in the construction of more affordable rental housing, implement greater protections for those who are facing eviction, and reinstitute rent controls on new buildings.
The recommendations above form an important part of Unifor’s own economic recovery plan entitled Unifor’s Road Map for a Fair, Inclusive and Just Economic Recovery. The full document can be found at https://buildbackbetter.unifor.org/theroadmap.