CUPE Ontario warns that Ford’s plan to reopen child care centres disregards the safety of children and child care staff as the government ignores calls for additional funding, staffing, and training needed to prepare the sector.

“Premier Ford continues to demonstrate that he can’t be trusted to safely reopen child care centres in Ontario,” said Carrie Lynn Poole-Cotnam Chair of CUPE Ontario’s social services sector. “CUPE has clearly outlined how Ford can safely reopen child care centres, but he refuses to address the issues we’ve been flagging since the beginning of COVID-19. CUPE Ontario led the call for an injection of funding for necessary PPE and training to reopen safely—none of which Ford has addressed in a letter to the Premier and Minister on May 15, 2020.” 

On June 8, Ford announced that child care centres across the province will reopen on June 12.

“Ford has given centres virtually no notice on the reopening,” said Carolyn Ferns, Policy Coordinator of Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care (OCBCC). “Parents are rightfully concerned and confused by the Ford government’s lack of adequate notice, and they are afraid to send their children back without time for centres to undergo health and safety training to minimize the risk of a COVID-19 outbreak.”

CUPE Ontario represents more than 12,000 members working in child care and early childhood education and works closely with the OCBCC to advocate for high-quality, universal, and affordable child care. 

“Ford is sending a clear message that parents don’t actually matter in his plan to reopen the economy—instead, he is offering false assurances that everything will be fine and work itself out,” continued Poole-Cotnam. “If Ford really wanted to support parents, new funding would be introduced into the child care sector, to keep our loved ones safe and ensure the sustainability of child care centres. Without committed funding from the Ford government for PPE and increased staffing, centres will run operational deficits, forcing them to consider raising parent fees to survive.”

Ford’s reopening announcement follows a series of announcements aimed to poise Ontario’s economy for recovery—however, the actions of Ford’s Conservatives continue to contradict their grand gestures, says CUPE Ontario.

“Childcare centres simply don’t have enough time or resources to reopen safely. It took three weeks for emergency child care centres to open and we’ve only been given three days,” continued Ferns. “As always, dedicated workers in child care will pick up our government’s slack and do whatever it takes to meet the needs of parents across the province.”

CUPE recently joined OCBCC and Association of Early Childhood Educators Ontario (AECEO) in the release of a new report, From Reopening to Recovery that lays out a plan to ensure a safe reopening, adequate funding and support for educators and programs, and a strengthened child care system at the core of economic and social recovery.