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April 29, 2020

Equity-seeking communities must be central in the development of Ford government economic recovery plans. Ontario must commit to collaboration with labour to ensure the inclusion of equity-seeking groups, says the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL).

The OFL also joins the Ontario NDP, labour unions and community organizations in the call for the government of Ontario to fund, collect and publish provincial data on the impacts of COVID-19 on equity-seeking Ontarians. This data must include information on how women, Indigenous, Black and other racialized people, individuals with disabilities, 2SLGBTQI+ people, and immigrants and migrants are disproportionately affected by the global pandemic.

“COVID-19 does not affect everyone equally. Equity-seeking groups continue to be disproportionately affected by the economic, social, and physical harms of COVID-19, including increased risk of exposure and decreased access to health care,” said OFL President Patty Coates. “Understanding the social determinants of health by analyzing equity-based COVID-19 data is critical to help us understand how best to stop the spread in these communities, and to inform Ontario’s economic recovery plans.” 

Social determinants of health make equity-seeking groups more vulnerable to COVID-19. Income, race, and employment conditions have effects on immune-system functioning. At the same time, these groups often face greater exposure to the virus because of crowded housing and the urgent need for financially insecure people to work, whether or not their workplaces take precautions to prevent the spread of the virus.

The OFL is partnering with community allies to outline for the government how race and socio-demographic data should be collected and made public, and why doing so is critical to understanding the effects of COVID-19 on communities across Ontario. 

“While some Ontarians are staying home, many of the workers that are keeping the province running receive the lowest pay, the fewest benefits and face a greater risk of infection. Women workers, racialized workers, migrant and immigrant workers, and workers with disabilities are overrepresented in the precarious jobs that are on the front line of the pandemic,” said Coates. “These labour market inequities lead to social and economic inequality, including higher poverty rates, greater health risks, and lower quality housing for these workers.” 

“COVID-19 has further exacerbated these realities inside and outside the labour market, demonstrating the importance of collecting this data to not only effectively address the current situation, but also to minimize any disparities in future outbreaks,” said OFL Secretary-Treasurer Ahmad Gaied. 

“Higher barriers to accessing public services, including health care and justice, remain for equity-seeking groups. For example, in Indigenous communities’ lack of access to clean water, to drink or even wash their hands, has unquestionably affected their ability to weather this pandemic,” said OFL Executive Vice-President Janice Folk-Dawson. “Indigenous communities must be consulted in how this data is collected. We must ensure that the First Nations principles of OCAP guide the data collection processes in their communities, and that they own and control how this information can be used.”

Equity-seeking groups outside Canada also face disproportionate effects of the pandemic. In Chicago, Black people comprise 30 per cent of the population, but they represent more than 70 per cent of the COVID-19-related deaths.

The Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL) represents 54 unions and one million workers in Ontario. For information, visit www.OFL.ca and follow the OFL on Facebook and Twitter: @OFLabour.

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For more information, please contact:

Meagan Perry
Communications Director
Ontario Federation of Labour
mperry@ofl.ca | 416-894-3456

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