An announcement earlier this week by Ontario’s Minister of Colleges and Universities is yet another abdication of responsibility by the Ford Government, according to the leader of university workers within CUPE Ontario.

“Once again, we see the Ford Government announcing with much fanfare the resumption of a vital public service, with few—if any—details, done with little or no consultation from key stakeholders, no financial support and no clarity on what standard public health measures will need to be in place,” said David Simao, chair of the Ontario University Workers’ Coordinating Committee (OUWCC), which speaks for the more than 30,000 CUPE members working in Ontario’s university sector.

Simao was responding to Wednesday’s announcement by Minister of Colleges and Universities Ross Romano that Ontario’s Universities will be able to resume limited on-campus operations beginning next month.

“The province regulates universities on multiple levels, including through health and safety regulations. To announce universities can begin reopening with no meaningful consultation with key stakeholders, no financial or other supports offered, and no clarity on health and safety measures is a profound abdication of Provincial responsibility. Minister Romano has effectively told Ontario’s Universities to figure all these things out for themselves,” he said.

In the absence of any clear direction from the Province, Simao called on Universities seeking to reopen to engage in meaningful consultations with unions representing campus workers, as well as their Joint Health and Safety Committees (JHSCs) to ensure that efforts to reopen universities have the safety of students and workers as the paramount priority.

Fred Hahn, President of CUPE Ontario, urged Minister Romano and the Ford Government to take their responsibility to the sector seriously.

“For too long, post-secondary education in Ontario has been treated like any other business in the private sector, rather than a regulated public sector. This trend has accelerated under the Ford Government’s watch. It was problematic before COVID-19, and doubly so now. Universities can and should play a key role in Ontario’s post-pandemic recovery, but that won’t be possible unless governments start taking seriously their responsibilities to the sector,” said Hahn.