The Ford Conservatives’ proposed legislation extending emergency powers will give the province significant powers at the expense of front-line workers, according to CUPE Ontario.
“Emergency orders and the power to make immediate decisions to defend against a public health crisis are supposed to be temporary,” said Candace Rennick, Secretary-Treasurer of CUPE Ontario. “By extending their powers for at least a year, the Ford Conservatives are telling us that they don’t plan on listening to the voices of workers and the unions representing them anytime soon.”
Bill 195, the Reopening Ontario (A Flexible Response to COVID-19) Act, would allow the government to extend or amend some of the existing emergency orders for 30 days at a time for a year after it’s passed. The government would have the power to institute emergency orders that have to do with closures and regulations; redeployment of front-line workers; and rules related to public gatherings.
“Redeployment is especially concerning because it overrides collective agreements which provide mechanisms for workers to raise issues - like the delivery and accessibility of the services Ontarians rely on,” said Rennick. “This government needs to consult with workers and unions, not continue to violate their Charter-protected right to collectively determine their working conditions.”
CUPE Ontario, representing 280,000 public sector workers, has raised concerns about the impacts on their members in hospitals, long-term care homes, public health, municipal wastewater treatment plants, homeless shelters, and community living homes, and more. With the new legislation allowing amendments of these orders to impose different requirements, apply those requirements to different parts of the province, and extend the application of the orders to groups not previously subjected, the union is calling the move a potential power grab for the government.
“This is a question of political will and a question of priorities. It’s just not right that pandemic pay, an order which supports workers, is set to end while orders that further burden workers will continue,” said Rennick. “Now’s the time for transparency and consultation – not blatant attempts to use legislation to apply orders to an ever-growing list of employers at the expense of front-line workers.”