President's Message Week 22

In this weeks update: 1. OSSTF/FEESO COVID H&S/Legal Strategy 2. International Women's Day

Information for OSSTF/FEESO Members on our COVID H&S/Legal Strategy

As the COVID pandemic continues to evolve and change, we continue to adapt our response to address the challenges you face on a daily basis. OSSTF/FEESO is working with Dr. Amy Greer, an expert in epidemiology and disease modelling, who is supporting our health and safety (H&S)/legal strategy along with external legal counsel and our in-house H&S team at the provincial office. We are using scientific facts and data in working through our strategy. We are targeting the higher-risk regions for increased lobbying of Public Health Units (PHU). While it may seem like the efforts you have made to this point have not produced results; local processes, supported by individual member actions, are the foundation of our ongoing H&S/legal strategy. To address the provincial situation, we must continue local processes such as grievances, individual member work refusals, and member-driven complaints to the Ministry of Labour, Training and Skills Development (MLTSD). As a reminder, you have the right to refuse unsafe work under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) Section 43, if you believe there are unsafe working conditions in your workplace. Please see https://www.osstf.on.ca/services/health-safety/information-bulletins/the-right-to-refuse-it-s-law-use-it.aspx for further information on the process and consult your Branch President/Site Rep if you are considering undertaking a work refusal. If you feel uncomfortable exercising your right to refuse, you can file a complaint anonymously with the MLTSD via phone at 1-877-202-0008 or online via this form https://www.ontario.ca/page/filing-workplace-health-and-safety-complaint. These complaints to the MLTSD have resulted in inspectors coming in for field visits, sometimes issuing orders to employers, and they are required to file reports of their findings. The Field Visit Reports (FVR) are a key piece in building support for our case both locally and provincially. Again, please ensure you consult with the appropriate local leader(s), if you are considering filing a complaint to the MLTSD. The more members, and locals, that raise the concerns for our members’ health and safety, the more information we have to build our case for a future potential provincial response. Provincial-level responses remain possible, but they will need the foundation of local information and complaints in order to be persuasive to a court or provincial level adjudicator. As part of the strategy, we have written to the superintendent, director, and principal associations in an effort to minimize the fear of reprisal if members raise health and safety concerns. We have encouraged those organizations to communicate to their members that when OSSTF/FEESO members bring forward health and safety concerns, that support and meaningful engagement takes place to try to resolve the issues at the local level. At a number of recent H&S information meetings we had with local leaders this past month, we shared some of the science and data from Dr. Greer. Following those meetings, external legal counsel has drafted letter(s) that local leaders can use to reach out to the local PHUs, when appropriate, based on information that will be provided on a weekly basis. The efforts you make as individual members are playing a key role in our H&S/legal strategy and we ask that you continue to use your voices to raise the concerns you have and push for the required changes to make our worksites, schools, and communities safer.

International Women’s Day (IWD) Virtual Rally March 6, 2021 and Other IWD Events

Rising Above the Pandemic – Fighting for a Just Future for All Uniting under the theme of Rising Above the Pandemic – Fighting for a Just Future for All, International Women’s Day (IWD) celebrations will kick off with IWD Toronto’s Facebook Live Virtual Rally on Sunday, March 6th. The IWD March is one of Toronto’s most diverse events with women’s groups, community organizations, trade unions, students, and women’s rights advocates coming together to celebrate and work for change. The organizing committee for IWD is a diverse group of women including representatives from trade unions, women’s health and legal services, students unions, caregivers and worker’s rights activists. OSSTF/FEESO encourages women and allies to attend this virtual march and support local events in their communities on or around March 6, 2021. Please note that you do not need a Facebook account to attend this virtual event – you only need to click here or visit https://www.facebook.com/IWDToronto/. The theme recognized by the Canadian government is #FeministRecovery, again focusing on the role of women during this pandemic. You can find more information, shareables and teacher tools by visiting the Canadian government International Women’s Day site. You can find a list of hundreds of international events by clicking International Women’s Day events, including those in Oakville, Toronto, Brampton, Whitby and Ottawa, to name a few. Due to COVID-19, there is also the opportunity to “travel the world” and choose other virtual events from countries like

Upper Grand Employee Assistance Program

If you are finding yourself or a family member or a colleague is needing additional support or resources please refer to the board's employee and family assistance program. This service is free and confidential. The board is not given the names of members who are using the service. It has been a challenging year with COVID and many of us are dealing with other challenges unrelated to COVID. This resource may be of help to members who need it.

Access the Upper Grand District School Board’s Employee & Family Assistance Program 24/7 by phone, web or mobile app 1-800-387-4765 | www.workhealthlife.com

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