'Workers must have confidence in the government's return-to-work plans and its ability to protect their health'
The Ontario government must consult with workers before proceeding with plans the reopen the province's economy once the COVID-19 risks are lessened, according to Unifor.
"The [Doug] Ford government must listen to the concerns of our members on re-opening the economy in the same way it did with health-care workers on premium pay," says Jerry Dias, Unifor national president. "We have to get this restart of the economy right the first time and that means workers must have confidence in the government's return-to-work plans and its ability to protect their health."
In March, Ontario saw 1,440 complaints about workplace safety related to COVID-19, up from just 14 in February, according to the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development.
Under its new framework, the government says it will take a stage-by-stage approach to reopening the economy to ensure there are appropriate measures in place so workplaces can open safely. Public health officials will carefully monitor each stage for two to four weeks, as they assess the evolution of the COVID-19 outbreak to determine if it is necessary to change course to maintain public health.
But Ontario's economy has already suffered from a number of complex problems that were exacerbated by the pandemic, including insufficient labour standards, says Unifor.
"The premier cannot proceed with reopening workplaces before consulting workers on creating the safest conditions possible and that means revisiting many of the policies made before the pandemic," says Naureen Rizvi, Unifor's Ontario director. "Workers have made tremendous sacrifices to flatten the curve and continue to work under very difficult, risky and stressful circumstances. That alone has earned them a seat at the table."
About 91 Unifor members across Canada have been diagnosed with COVID-19 to date, including 47 in Ontario.
Several companies are touting various technologies meant to see employees maintain social distancing and other safety measures implemented against COVID-19 when they head back to the office