Ontario’s four major teacher and education worker unions say they have been left with no choice but to file formal appeals with the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB) as per a news statement. This development comes after the failure of the Ministry of Labour to adequately respond to the requests for appropriate health and safety standards in publicly funded schools.
Representatives of the unions met with Ontario’s Minister of Labour and Chief Prevention Officer on August 24, and raised a number of concerns regarding the Ministry of Education’s failure to put in place all reasonable precautions for a safe return to school.
Following the meeting, the unions issued a request to the Minister of Labour that orders be made requiring the Ministry of Education to set standards around physical distancing, cohorting, ventilation, and transportation. It was also requested that the Ministry of Labour review these orders monthly, in case scientific developments dictate more stringent standards, and that school boards be given additional time if necessary to implement proper health and safety measures.
As of August 28, the date upon which it said it would respond, the Ministry of Labour had failed to comply with these requests.
The unions strongly object to claims by the Premier and the Minister of Education that by raising concerns about the government’s school reopening plan, teachers and education workers are failing to do their part to help Ontarians navigate the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The government is attempting to deflect blame for their inadequate school reopening plan by creating division among Ontarians. But union leaders have a responsibility to protect our fellow teachers and education workers, and we know we have the support of many parents, students, health experts and others,” says AEFO President Rémi Sabourin.
“Schools and classrooms are unique workplaces, with upwards of 30 people sharing small spaces,” says ETFO President Sam Hammond. “Smaller class sizes would help make schools safer. Should teachers and education workers not be able to expect at least the same standards and precautionary measures as have been put in place in stores, offices, and other spaces across the province?”
“The anxiety Ontarians are feeling around reopening schools is directly related to the government’s lack of leadership and their haphazard, incomplete planning,” says OECTA President Liz Stuart. “The Premier and the Minister of Education say they will do everything possible to make sure schools are safe. All we are asking is that they make an honest, exhaustive effort to follow through on this promise.”
“The accusation that teachers and education workers are not willing to step up and get back to schools is preposterous and insulting,” says OSSTF/FEESO President Harvey Bischof. “No worker in the province of Ontario should be expected to sacrifice their health and safety, especially when there are such obvious measures the government could be taking to reduce the risk and prevent potential tragedies”.
Cover Photo: File photo/Pixabay
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