The Ministry of Ed in consultation with medical professionals has extended the provincial shut down of schools while continuing to offer in-person support to exceptional students. This has resulted in the requirement for many members to attend in-person to provide this support.
This decision has been made for you and imposed on you by the provincial government, the school board is following their explicit directions. While we have never been given an explanation for this, we believe that families with students with exceptional learning needs have put enormous pressure on the government for in-school support. These families want their children at school, they are sending them, no one is making them. For those members who work in schools with dedicated DD classrooms, you have been asked to leave the safety of your home and provide care to these students, many students who do not have self-care skills, won't or can't wear a mask and don't understand social distancing, and in the current health care environment, this is frightening and your concerns are valid. I appreciate that you are angry and frustrated that this has been asked of you and not others. It doesn't make sense to reassign 400 Educational Assistants to 16 Elementary Schools and 10 Highschools, that being said, this has been discussed.
I can't prevent your employer or the government from requiring ANY member to report to work, they are continuing to pay both permanent and LTO members. These are their management rights. I agree members are being asked to provide essential services and this government is not recognizing members as essential workers. There is no extra pay. This whole situation sucks, we are in a worldwide pandemic and we are being asked to do hard things under hard circumstances. We don't have to like it, and we can be angry and I encourage you to contact your MPP and Public Health Unit as I have to share your concerns. I'm angry, frustrated, and at a loss too!
The expectations of our Members do not violate our Collective Agreement (including requiring some members to return to schools physically) and do not violate health and safety protocols approved by the local public health unit. OSSTF has and will continue to advocate for Members to ensure the Board is aware of their concerns, to ensure the health and safety of members, and to encourage the Board to make appropriate adjustments as required.
Child Care Concerns for OSSTF/FEESO Members
With the closure of elementary schools, many OSSTF/FEESO members who are also working from home, as well as those who must continue to attend their workplaces, are faced with the problem of finding child care opportunities for their elementary-aged children so that they can continue to perform their employment duties. The issue is complicated by the fact that, under the current direction from the Ministry of Education, the need for additional child care will be relatively short term. However, it is uncertain whether the current schedule for returning to in-person instruction may be altered. Employers have chosen to take a variety of approaches in addressing child care issues, and in many cases are leaving OSSTF/FEESO members with few options.
The Ontario Human Rights Code protects people from being discriminated against in their employment on the basis of family status. This means that employers may have to accommodate the family status of employees where required. However, affected employees are also required to take reasonable steps to attempt to address their family needs themselves prior to requesting that their employer accommodate them.
For members who are providing instruction or assistance remotely, this could include the ability to exercise professional judgment in determining whether and how to use synchronous and asynchronous instruction or support, or a combination of both, during the shutdown. For members who are required to attend their workplace during the shutdown, accommodations will have to be considered on an individual basis. Although unpaid leave for employees is a legally acceptable form of accommodation, employers should explore all other options before resorting to unpaid leaves. You will be required to share reasonable information with UGDSB.
You must discuss your individual needs with UGDSB. If you have childcare issues related to being required to attend your workplace please email Angela Ostetto at firstname.lastname@example.org and copy me on the email.
Yours in solidarity,