OPSEU Coalition of Racialized Workers

Vulnerable communities must be prioritized in pandemic recovery: OPSEU/SEFPO


OPSEU/SEFPO is calling on the government to protect women, Black and other racialized communities from falling further and further behind in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It’s been over a year since the start of the pandemic and women, Black and other racialized communities have been the hardest hit in terms of job loss.

Recent studies have also shown that variant cases emerge faster in groups with the lowest income levels, many of whom are essential workers, OPSEU/SEFPO President Warren (Smokey) Thomas pointed out.

“As governments continue rolling out vaccines, we must make sure everyone has full access to them,” said Thomas. “We must focus on lower paid workers who are living in crowded settings in community hotspots such as Toronto and Peel. Many workers can’t afford time off work for a COVID-19 test or to wait for government supports.”

Thomas added that many lower paid workers live in denser and multigenerational households, putting them and their families at a greater risk of infectious variants.

Recent data has shown that the growth rate of COVID-19 variants was nearly 44 per cent in groups with the lowest income level, double the roughly 22 per cent growth seen in the highest income level.

The findings regarding essential workers were similar, with a growth rate of more than 50 per cent in areas with the highest levels of essential workers compared to roughly 18 per cent in the lowest level.

These rates of growth do not only apply to the new COVID-19 variants that we are seeing; these workers have been disproportionately affected since the beginning of the pandemic. Public health strategies like lockdowns have made limited progress in communities most affected and elected leaders must address this.

“There’s no question that we need vaccine prioritization for densely populated neighbourhoods” said Peter Thompson, Chair of OPSEU/SEFPO’s Coalition of Racialized Workers.

“We know now in the third wave that the infection rate is higher amongst poor and racialized communities. Now that the news is out there about the vaccine distribution, the government has the role to act swiftly and protect people, especially the ones most susceptible to contracting the virus” he added.

The focus must be shifted to the communities that are at higher risk, said OPSEU/SEFPO First Vice President and Treasurer, Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida.

“Addressing the needs of communities who are more at risk of contracting the virus involves targeted testing, better communication, and increased access to social supports,” said Almeida.

“This includes voluntary isolation sites for people who have the virus or are at risk of contracting it and can’t properly self-isolate. We also need more affordable housing for at risk populations in cities to avoid this from happening again.”

It’s important to get people back to work because the sudden jolts of opening and reopening are not good for anyone, said Thomas.

“We need to act now and vaccinate all essential front-line heroes who have been put at the forefront of serving our communities and families without the protections they need to preserve their health,” said Thomas.