Vice-President Cynthia Watt: We need to support women in the workforce, for our communities and for our economy
Publish date: Wednesday, March 03, 2021 presidentsMessage
Last week, I read an article featured in our In The News section of our Weekly Member News that really stuck with me. I learned that last March’s lockdown saw women’s participation in the workforce drop from a historic high to the lowest rate in over thirty years. Data collected at the end of 2020 showed that Black women, Indigenous women, and women of colour were even harder hit by unemployment than white women. There is simply no other way to put it—we are moving backward in terms of women’s participation in the workforce, and it is completely unacceptable.
In a way, we shouldn’t be surprised that inequalities that existed before COVID-19 have only gotten worse over the past year. Throughout the pandemic, families have reported a significant increase in the number of hours spent on caregiving, specifically childcare, home schooling, and housework, and, as with before the pandemic, the majority of this additional work being done by women. Now is the time for decisive actions and supports, and not just because it’s the right thing to do: experts have been sounding the alarm for a year now. The message is clear: if women are not properly supported, the economy will not recover.
This isn’t a responsibility for women to shoulder alone. Supporting the full and equitable participation of women in the workforce and the economy must be a priority for governments, employers, and labour organizations.
Women are Ontario’s Professional Employees — in fact, more than half of AMAPCEO’s membership are women. It is your skills, talents and hard work that allows this province to effectively function, and we need to support you so you can do what you do best: ensure Ontarians can access the services they rely on.
That’s why when we started to get calls from members in March 2020, I was proud that President Dave Bulmer and our AMAPCEO team was unrelenting in fighting for accommodations beyond what was already in your collective agreement:
- Accommodations for health-related reasons, family status reasons, and other grounds protected under the Ontario Human Rights Code.
- Flexible work arrangements in terms of hours worked.
- A codified understanding that management must accommodate overwork due to family.
- A COVID-19 specific sick leave tops up pay.
It’s also why AMAPCEO has taken such a prominent stance on fighting for paid sick days for all Ontarians. In this province, women are more likely to work low wage, precarious jobs that do not provide paid sick leave. Enshrining sick days as an employment standard is an issue of gender equity.
Maybe the above rights were not relevant to you in the early days of the pandemic, and your situation has now changed. You are still entitled to them, and can find more information at amapceo.ca/covidFAQs
The stats may be grim, but the message is clear: if governments, employers, and labour organizations take clear steps to accommodate unpair labour and make supporting women in the workforce a priority , we can not only ease each others’ mental burdens, but also repair our broken economy. I believe we can do this, and AMAPCEO will continue to bring this to meetings with our employers. It is my hope that when I write this message next International Women’s Day, we will be celebrating the accomplishments we made in 2021.
More about AMAPCEO and our Members: Established in 1992, AMAPCEO is a bargaining agent that represents 14,000 professional and supervisory public servants, most of whom work directly for the Government of Ontario in every ministry and in a number of agencies, boards and commissions; in 130 communities throughout Ontario and in 12 cities outside Canada. We also represent employees outside the Ontario Public Service in: the Financial Services Regulatory Authority of Ontario; Health Quality Ontario; the Ontario Arts Council; Public Health Ontario; the Waypoint Mental Health Centre in Penetanguishene; and in the former Offices of the Ontario Child Advocate and the French Language Services Commissioner (now part of the Ontario Ombudsman).