(Ottawa — March 18, 2020) Across Canada, as universities and colleges are taking important steps to reduce the spread of COVID-19, CAUT welcomes the $27 billion in direct support to Canadians announced today by the federal government. This is an important step in ensuring that vulnerable Canadians, including post-secondary education workers and students, are adequately supported throughout this crisis.
Many of those in the post-secondary sector – contract academic staff instructors, support staff and students – have precarious work with limited job protection and few benefits. The new emergency care benefit of $900 biweekly for those who do not have access to paid sick leave, a six-month interest-free reprieve on student loan payments, and a deferral of tax payments until August 31, among other measures, are necessary steps to support vulnerable workers.
As we move forward in addressing the crisis, we hope our governments continue to adapt and evolve programs to meet the needs of workers and their families. In addition to this financial support, measures are needed to uphold workers' rights at the provincial level.We call upon all provinces to ensure job-protected leaves, and to make the necessary changes to employment standards to close the gaps in support made evident from this public health emergency.
The economic repercussions of this crisis will be felt for months and even years to come. For academic staff, threats to their livelihoods loom in the coming school year, as universities and colleges are likely to see pandemic-related declines in enrolment and resulting financial problems this fall.
Additional fiscal measures will be required to stimulate the economy and support public services. CAUT urges the federal and provincial governments to coordinate measures to assist education in the coming months.Ensuring the sustainability of post-secondary education through the predicted temporary downturn in enrollment will protect core operations and livelihoods, provide continuity for the expertise needed to continue to tackle this crisis, and support Canada’s recovery.