CUPE Ontario has announced proposals to help Ontarians who are financially impacted because of the COVID-19 pandemic. With reports of wide-spread layoffs and income loss, the union has called on the Ontario government to include significant measures in the economic and fiscal update that’s scheduled for Wednesday.

The union is advocating that:

  • the province provide immediate financial support for those who are unemployed and cannot rely on EI benefits;
  • the provincial government to enact a wage subsidy for employers to keep workers on their payroll;
  • and where that’s not possible and there are layoffs, the province should support employers with a Supplementary Unemployment Benefit Plan (SUBP), a measure which allows employers to top up employees’ EI benefits, bringing benefits closer to 100% of their income.

“This is a critical time for Ontarians, with people losing their jobs and still having to provide for themselves and their families,” said Fred Hahn, President of CUPE Ontario. “In light of the government’s order today to close all non-essential workplaces, these proposals are more important than ever and we need this government to act. The measures are available within their powers and they need to use them now.”

Noting that there will be more people facing layoffs, adding to the 500,000 who applied for EI benefits last week, CUPE Ontario says that current measures don’t go far enough. Last week the province amended the Employment Standards Act, which protects the jobs of Ontarians impacted by the pandemic, but with the legislation providing unpaid leave, it does not address people’s financial challenges, according to the union. And while the federal government is in the process of providing income supports to impacted workers who don’t qualify for EI, CUPE Ontario is concerned that that the $900/bi-weekly being offered is too low and that Canadians will not see the funds for at least another month.

CUPE Ontario supports the Ontario New Democratic Party’s call for a $2,000 Ontario Emergency Income that immediately provides cheques to households experiencing unemployment or lost income.

“People are worried about rent and mortgages, about putting food on the table, and about securing their quality of life in the future,” said Candace Rennick, Secretary-Treasurer of CUPE Ontario, noting a report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives that says nearly half of studied households have less than a month’s worth of savings. “The town of Whitby just announced its plan of laying off 210 part-time workers and CUPE members. We all know that EI benefits for part-time workers don’t come anywhere close to helping you get by, if they qualify for benefits in the first place. This is just one example of what so many people are facing now - and they deserve better.”

“The reality of widespread income loss and the fear and anxiety it creates could get a lot worse, but there are things we can do about it,” said Hahn. “These measures are available and the now’s the time for the province to take this opportunity to support Ontarians.”