Respite care program workers concerned with safety conditions

CUPE Local 3260, which represents school education support staff workers, calls on the PEI Government to pause individual respite care programs when working conditions are unsafe.

Respite care is in place in all schools across the province, providing support for students with special needs who are currently supported by educational support staff.

“When our members are not provided with proper personal protective equipment or when there are COVID-positive cases in specific workplaces, those programs should be paused. Unfortunately, the province is still prioritizing program continuation, despite increased health risks for students and staff,” states Carolyn Vandaele, CUPE Local 3260 President.

For many Local 3260 members, it has become clear the play-based respite care programming for students with educational support plans is not working as well as intended.

  • Proper PPE is still not yet provided to all workers who are required to have close contact with students who cannot wear masks.
  • With 62 separate respite programs running, too many implementation variations exist throughout the province with regards to testing protocols, enforcing mask-wearing, and student-to-staff ratios.
  • A shortage of rapid tests last week meant that the employer changed the testing rules instead of shutting down programming until testing protocols could be maintained.

“Education workers want a commitment from this government that they will pause programs when safe working conditions cannot be ensured,” concluded Vandaele.

“With the contagion risks from the Omicron variant, no program of this nature should be run at all costs. Student and worker safety must be the priority,” said CUPE President Leonard Gallant. “We support Local 3260’s effort to make sure Education workers are not taken for granted by King government,” he concluded.

CUPE Local 3260 represents over 800 Educational Assistants, Youth Service Workers, Workplace Assistants, Student Attendants and Educational Language Interpreter in the PEI school system.