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WATCH: Ford has been "taking bullets" for union inspectors who refused to go into LTC homes

But the premier says he understands why in April inspectors were afraid for their health

Ontario Premier Doug Ford said Thursday that Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) inspectors were flat out refusing to enter long-term care homes during the peak of COVID-19.

During the question period of his press conference today, Ford was asked about a letter sent in April from OPSEU representative Warren "Smokey" Thomas, addressed to the premier and Long-Term Care Minister Merrilee Fullerton that stated the inherent risks of having inspectors go into long-term care homes was not necessary.

Ford was asked if inspectors refused to go into the long-term care homes and the answer was yes.

"I'm just going to lay the chips on the table, I've been taking bullets for the union every day," said Ford. "The truth of the matter is they were refusing to go into these homes."

Ford qualified his comments by stating that he has a great deal of respect for Thomas and understood the challenges that he was faced with.

"They refused to go in, what do you do when you have the union saying they aren't going in the door? Believe me, Smokey's an incredible leader and thanks to him they're going back in, so by no means is this Smokey Thomas' problem, but the union's," said Ford.

"Let me be fair to them, too, and that's why I've been taking the bullets for them every time people ask me that question. I understand they were scared, this was in April, this was the peak of the peak of COVID and all heck was breaking loose, and they were nervous about their families, they were worried about their health. But I'm not going to continue taking bullets … when the unions refused to go in."

Ford commended Thomas' leadership, adding the good news was the inspectors are once again going into long-term care homes for inspections.

"I'd be nervous as well, and that all goes back to how grateful we are for the frontline healthcare workers that went in when no one else would go in," said Ford.