Budget Gains for Child Care Positive but Ontario Workers Still Insecure, CAW says

March 25, 2010, 5:00 PM EST

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The commitment to pick up over $63 million in outstanding child care costs is a positive and long-overdue move by the Ontario government, but the government needs to provide greater help to laid-off workers, CAW President Ken Lewenza said in reaction to the March 25 provincial budget.

Lewenza commended the provincial government's action to fill the major funding hole for daycare created by the Harper Conservatives, who put an end to a proposed national child care program in 2006. Although this new funding allows thousands of subsidized day care spaces to continue operating, the McGuinty government must continue advocating for a national plan, Lewenza said.

He also highlighted concerns with a slow down in health care spending in coming years that will mean a greater strain on the health system, especially with hospitals receiving an increase of 1.5 per cent, down from the already low 2.1 per cent in the current year.

Plans to slow major transit expansion projects in Toronto are also a concern, especially at a time when public infrastructure projects are playing such an important role in providing greater balance and stability during the economic downturn that has thrown so many out of work, he said.

The CAW welcomes the budget's commitment to extend the Second Career skills training program to another 30,000 laid off workers as well as the modest increase in funding on a per trainee basis.

It's critical that these funds are actually used to meet workers' needs. Too many of the unemployed have been told they must contribute to their tuition and survive on a living allowance that's sometimes only $37 per week or sometimes nothing at all.

"We hear about these problems all the time from our action centres for laid off members," said Lewenza.

Outside of the additional commitment to Second Career skills training, the budget offers inadequate support for an increasing number of workers faced with insecurity and job loss, especially in the area of severance protection, he said.

"We had hoped that the voices of Ontario's workers who have lost their jobs and continue to fight for outstanding wage and severance entitlements would have resonated with the provincial government," Lewenza said.

The CAW has been calling on the government to allocate funds to help establish a provincial wage earner protection program that ensures workers are fairly compensated during employer bankruptcies.

Lewenza said the issue of severance is part of a much larger campaign to protect workers against growing precariousness in the province's labour market, marked by a rise in non-standard work arrangements - such as contract, temporary, agency and casual work.

Lewenza said that he was concerned that the government is freezing compensation for non-union government staff and is already flagging an inability to negotiate public sector wage increases in coming rounds of contract talks.

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