The Government of Ontario’s decision to remove Step 3 guidelines, like physical distancing requirements and capacity limits for in-class instruction at Universities and Colleges, is a recipe for disaster, says CUPE Ontario.
Leaders from CUPE Ontario’s University Sector, representing academic workers and support staff, as well as Fred Hahn, President of CUPE Ontario, held a press conference this morning to detail the danger students and workers are facing in packed classrooms and labs considering the Delta variant – and called on the Province to apply Step 3 measures to post-secondary institutions.
“If it is clear to the Ford Conservatives that a mandatory vaccination policy alone is simply not enough to protect us in a movie theatre, why is it not clear to them that the same is true in a lecture hall? They know better and it’s so unconscionable that the province would remove critical measures like capacity limits and physical distancing requirements for indoor instructional spaces, like classrooms and labs. We need these measures in place immediately to keep students and the 30,000 CUPE Ontario support and academic workers on campuses safe.” – Fred Hahn, President of CUPE Ontario
“I can’t say it clearly enough: removing these important measures is endangering students and workers at McMaster. Right now, McMaster is allowing up to 100 students in classrooms with no distancing measures. We’re also seeing tutorials in small, crowded basement spaces. There’s no confirmation of cleaning schedules in shared office space, and there’s no commitment to allow workers to choose to work remotely where possible.” - Sharoni Mitra, President of CUPE 3906, representing members at McMaster University.
“As expected, this September looks a lot like a regular, pre-pandemic semester. Despite the ongoing pandemic, prevalence of the Delta variant, and likelihood of transmission in closed, crowded settings like classrooms and laboratories, U of T has few real workplace controls in place, especially at the St. George campus. Consequently, we simply do not have confidence that U of T’s COVID-19 mitigation strategy will keep workers and students safe. But we also don’t have confidence in the Ford Conservatives.” - Amy Conwell, Chair of CUPE 3902, representing academic workers at U of T.
“As support staff on campus, we know the Ford Conservatives are not doing enough to ensure a safe return to in-person learning. This decision to lift in person capacity limits was sprung on us at the last minute by the Ford Conservatives. Basically, the day before school opened, the Ford Conservatives made this regulation and exempted universities.” - Sherri Ferris, President of CUPE 229, representing custodial, trades, and food service workers at Queens University.
“For the entire pandemic, we have been asking the Ford Conservatives to consult with students and university workers. They have not. They have ignored us. Had they spoken to us we would have told them that, given decades of underfunding, many of our universities have not had the funds needed to invest in capital repairs, including the kinds of improvements to ventilation that would be necessary to stop the spread of COVID. We would have told them that years of underfunding had led many of our Universities to cut staff, contract out cleaning and maintenance services to the lowest bidder, and reduce cleaning standards to the level of “unkempt” neglect which is not good enough in the best of times but is particularly problematic during a public health crisis like COVID 19.” - Kathleen Webster, the Vice-Chair of CUPE Ontario’s University Sector and Chief Steward of CUPE 2361 representing support staff members.