Charlottetown – Four union locals representing more than 1 300 education sector workers breathe a sigh of relief as it was announced Tuesday afternoon that PEI schools have pushed back in-person learning to January 17, 2022.
Before Tuesday’s announcement by Dr. Morrison, students were to return to classrooms for in-person learning on January 10. This deadline had education workers worried about the students’ and workers’ safety.
“The four union locals (CUPE Locals 1145, 1770, 1775 & 3260) had productive talks with the Director of the Public Schools Branch and the HR Director this morning, before today’s announcement,” said Karen Tsistinas, CUPE National Representative. “We were concerned with the potential return to work next week and discussed the consideration of pushing back the in-person learning date, as we felt rushing this jeopardized workers’ and students’ well-being and safety,” she added.
The education system is a unique structure. Following COVID protocols is not easy, as you can have at times 70 students on a bus over 20 students in classrooms, and many students moving to and from class. “The union and the employers are committed to finding solutions to minimize these numbers to reduce overall contacts. The concerns of staff and student safety and the need for specific guidelines are of utmost importance and must be adhered to by both staff and students in order to safely administer a Respite Program. Members are anxiously waiting to hear what this program will look like and getting back to working with their students,” said Karen Tsistinas, CUPE National Representative.
“Management has been receptive to the concerns we bring forward on behalf of our members and we are pleased to maintain the collaborative approach we developed during the pandemic. Staff is looking forward to being back with the students and working with them in a safe environment,” added Tsistinas.
In the meeting, directors committed to providing human resource support for all categories of work, including increased short-term staffing. “As we are examining their January 17 plan, we are relieved to see there has been some thought put in to deal with the workload increases and addressing shortfalls in staffing ahead of us,” concluded Tsistinas.
- CUPE Local 3260 represents over 800 Educational Assistants and Youth Service Workers, Student Attendants, Workplace Assistants, and English Language Interpreters in the PEI school system. Carolyn Vandaele is the president.
- CUPE Local 1145 represents more than 350 school bus drivers. Jason MacKinnon is the president.
- CUPE Local 1770 represents over 130 administrative support workers. The acting president is Sawyer Murphy.
- CUPE Local 1775 represents over 340 property maintenance workers in schools. John Doucette is the president.