Students and workers feel abandoned after an Ontario government memo said universities and colleges will re-open without measures like class capacity limits or improvements to ventilation, says CUPE Ontario.

“More than 30,000 support and academic workers are now apprehensive about returning to campuses. They are baffled that post-secondary institutions aren’t required to adapt to our new COVID-19 reality,” said David Simao, Chair of CUPE Ontario’s University Sector. “The government’s suggestion that simply making vaccinations mandatory is enough, is just plain wrong. We’re facing a massive, systemic problem that requires a comprehensive plan, like providing personal protective equipment, improving ventilation, and ensuring physical distancing through smaller class sizes.”

CUPE Ontario University workers have been demanding the Ford Conservative government develop a comprehensive, province-wide, properly-funded plan to safely reopen on campus learning for well over a year.

“It’s disheartening,” added Simao,” that the government didn’t meaningfully consult before finalizing COVID-19 policies for the fall. Workers’ and students’ organizations know what is really going on on-campus. It’s time for the Ford government to finally listen to the experts instead of just cramming workers and students into enclosed spaces without a plan, hoping it’ll all work out somehow.”

“Years of provincial underfunding of Ontario’s universities have only exacerbated the problem of a safe return to campus during COVID-19. Even with this chronic challenge, the Ford Conservatives have failed to make the investments in necessary COVID-19 safety measures.”

“We need to recognize that, while vaccination is incredibly important, it is not a silver bullet,” said Fred Hahn, President of CUPE Ontario. “All the experts agree we need layered precautions, especially indoors, to ensure we can deal with the new reality of the Delta variant. We need a comprehensive plan, one that comes with sufficient and dedicated funding, to keep students and workers safe at our universities. It is well past time the Ford Conservatives consulted with workers and students and made the necessary investments to ensure a safe return to class on campus.”