On March 11 the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a pandemic, and Public Health Officials encouraged stronger mitigation efforts including self-isolation and social distancing. Taking measures to minimize physical contact is essential to alleviating the pressure posed to the healthcare system with an increase in cases of COVID-19. However, students – many of whom work precarious jobs – need the proper protections to care for themselves and for the community.

Many post-secondary institutions have closed or reduced campus services, cancelled classes and moved classes online. These precautions are important to protecting public health and safety. However, in order for them to be most effective, we urge campuses and on-campus workplaces to consider those who will be put at risk by campus closures. International students rely on on-campus work and housing. For many students, the rising costs of living and student debt means they cannot afford to endure the consequences of work interruptions and losses in work hours and wages.

The Canadian Federation of Students endorses the $15 and Fairness Health Emergency Labour Protections (H.E.L.P) calls to action to have a comprehensive protection plan for workers, including to immediately give workers 21 paid emergency leave days with 7 paid emergency leave days as a permanent measure and the additional 14 during outbreaks such as the current COVID-19 crisis. The full list of urgent protections workers need can be found here.

We are calling for:

  • Federal and Provincial governments to implement all of $15 and Fairness’ H.E.L.P calls to action to protect workers and communities during COVID-19; and
  • University and College administrations to apply H.E.L.P principles to all campus employees, including international students; casuals, contract, and part-time staff and faculty; and asking 3rd party service providers to apply similar minimum standards to campus employees who provides such crucial services as cleaning, security, food preparation and services, and more.

As progressive organizations that advocate for the rights of students and workers, students’ unions are well placed to lead by example by applying $15 and Fairness’ H.E.L.P principles while making decisions about campus closures and changes to work hours. We must all do our part to care for each other and that includes ensuring workers have access to the protections and funds they need to survive.

In solidarity,

Canadian Federation of Students-Ontario