Unifor Submission to the 2021 Budget Consultations

Unifor is pleased to provide input into the 2022 Pre-Budget Consultations. Unifor continues to recommend a dual strategy of protecting the people of Ontario from COVID-19 and building a better economy now and for the future. Unifor recommends that government immediately implement the items below to protect Ontario today and build a strong foundation for the future:  

Child Care

  • Immediately sign on to the federal government’s child care plan. 

Health care and long-term care: 

  • Take immediate measures to address the staffing collapse in hospitals, long-term care and home care including: setting up rapid response teams to channel health care workers into health care settings in crisis; clearing the backlog of approvals for internationally trained nurses and health care professionals; requiring clear public reporting of actual staffing levels in hospitals and long-term care homes;
  • Fast-track the minimum standard of 4 hours of direct care for long-term care with immediate funding and an intensive recruiting and training initiative for PSWs, RPNs and RNs. Target at least 18,000 PSWs in fast-track intensive training as soon as possible, and a similar number of nurses (RPNs and RNs);
  • Institute additional health care measures to address compensation and staffing levels such as: Repeal Bill 124; create a plan with an accountable timeline to reach wage parity across hospitals, long-term care and home care; require a ratio of at least 70% full-time staff in hospitals and long-term care; 
  • Phase out for-profit long-term care homes and transition toward community-based, publicly-owned or non-profit homes; and
  • Enter negotiations with the Federal Government to implement a publicly funded Provincial pharmacare program providing all Ontarians access to free prescription medications.

School Bus Drivers

  • Provide additional permanent government funding to support school bus driver hiring and retention, increase the number of buses and routes, and increase resources such as paid adult school bus monitors to assist drivers that transport younger children or students with extra needs; 
  • Introduce stricter school bus passenger limits and funding for external professional school bus sanitation services; and
  • Ensure access to high quality PPE and access COVID-19 testing like other education workers.

Public Transit

  • Ensure adequate and permanent provincial funding to maintain and expand high quality, affordable public transit service and infrastructure; prohibit the use of public funds to reduce and eliminate municipal transit routes and replacing them with private micro-transit (e.g. Uber, Lyft) services; and
  • Direct public transit infrastructure funds towards made-in-Canada, zero emissions buses and trains.
  • Auto Strategy and Elective Vehicles
  • Collaborate with federal and municipal governments in a comprehensive and targeted auto development strategy that facilitates high value investments in zero emission vehicle (ZEV) production, and component part programs alongside internal combustion engine (ICE) vehicle and powertrain programs; 
  • Continue investing in EV infrastructure, including the expansion of clean and renewable sources of energy to bolster the provincial power system;
  • Re-establish consumer incentive programs for ZEVs, coordinated with the forthcoming introduction of Canadian-made all-electric vehicles; and
  • Establish a transition support investment fund accessible to identified at-risk auto parts suppliers, providing supporting resources with which to retool provincial operations, and retrain workers to participate in the growing ZEV supply chain.

Support for Workers

  • Continue the work of raising the minimum wage and ensure essential service workers are paid according to the value they bring to society:
    • Raise the minimum wage to 60% of the median wage for full-time workers. Based on this benchmark, Ontario’s 2021 minimum wage would be $17.31; and
    • Provide 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.
  • Introduce 10 permanent paid sick days with additional days provided to workers, as required for isolation or quarantine periods during a public health crisis. Paid-sick days must be universally accessible, flexible, employer paid and not require a doctor’s note. 

Competition in the Gaming Industry

  • Protect the thousands of jobs at Ontario’s casinos by ensuring a level playing field for competition between online and in-person gaming operators.

WSIB Benefits

  • Repeal the change to WSIB that allows the Board to return premiums to employers. Government must undertake meaningful consultation with all stakeholders on the entire workers compensation system, including benefit coverage levels and how claims are processed. Recommendations for improving the system include: 
    • Increase the loss of earnings benefit to 90% and restore the 5% reduction;
    • Match the inflation rate applied to injured workers’ Loss of Earnings to the rate of increase of the CPI; 
    • Restore the loss of retirement income benefit ratio to 105% contribution; and
    • Provide greater coverage for mental stress injuries.