TORONTO – The president and secretary-treasurer of Ontario’s largest union are urging Premier Dalton McGuinty to make time on International Women’s Day (Thursday, March 8) to consider how his upcoming budget can help women instead of hurt them.
“If the Drummond report is any indication, this government is going to make life much harder for women in Ontario,” said Fred Hahn, president of CUPE Ontario. “When I look at these proposals, I see a province planning to balance its books on the backs of women, children and racialized workers.”
The recommendations in the report, commissioned by McGuinty, would cut at least 120,000 jobs from the broader public sector. Most of the people cut will be women, said Hahn.
People delivering front-line services, including the majority of CUPE Ontario’s 230,000 members in school boards, social services, universities, municipalities and health care, are mainly women. Most front-line workers are also at the low end of the wage spectrum.
As the government cuts women from the workforce, the gap between earnings for women and men will also increase, Hahn said.
Average pay in the public sector is on par with the private sector, but women are paid more equitably in the public sector, as CUPE economist Toby Sanger pointed out in his recent study, “Battle of the Wages”.
In the private sector, women earn approximately 30 percent less than men. Privatizing services will significantly increase the gap in earnings between women and men, as will Liberal policies such as compulsory contracting-out in home care.
“The public sector has done a lot to build a fairer, more equal society,” said Hahn. “Eliminating jobs for women and putting vital public services in the hands of for-profit operators looking to make a quick buck is not a plan for equality.”
In addition, many proposed cuts are to services that allow mothers to work. With hundreds of underfunded childcare centres facing closure this year and proposals such as cuts to special education, many mothers will have to leave the work force to care for their children.
“The Drummond report is anti-family and anti-woman. It does nothing to promote equality or enhance the quality of life in our communities,” said Candace Rennick, regional vice-president, CUPE Ontario. “On International Women’s Day, Dalton McGuinty and the Liberals had better take a good, hard look at themselves. Do they really want to be the party to push equality backwards?”
CUPE Ontario believes government should look at strategic investments to grow the economy and create jobs, and at the revenue side of the ledger. The union proposed tax fairness changes that will return $9 billion in revenue by rolling back corporate tax cuts and closing tax loopholes that will not affect ordinary Ontarians.
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