Good evening all,
Recognizing the surprising announcements of late from both Public Health and the Department of Education, we wish to provide some information and hopefully some understanding on what your Local, it’s Shop Stewards and Executive have been doing to advocate for its members amidst the constantly changing information being put out to the public.
We have heard from numerous members with concerns and we appreciate your patience as we do our best to advocate for members and try to get answers to your questions. We are hearing the closure information at the same time you do, and we understand the confusion and chaos it can create.
Upon hearing Public Health announcing of the closure of schools to students on January 4th and 5th 2022 and staff being provided Professional Development, and then the more recent announcement that students with special needs may return to Learning Centers in January ahead of the general student population, CUPE contacted the Department of Education with concerns. Our Local’s Regional Health and Safety Committee met with the HRCE and expressed concerns with them surrounding the safety of our members yesterday. Today, your Executive met with the HRCE for a Labour Management meeting where we brought forward questions and concerns around the information needed to provided safe working places for our members for those two days in January, accommodation requests and looking for an understanding of when directions would be given to all staff regardless of classification. The HRCE was very receptive to our questions and concerns and will do its best to send out all information as soon as possible. As that meeting ended, the announcement that the Department of Education had cancelled school for students, with the exception of Learning Centres, for December 20th and 21st was released. We have heard from numerous members since that time and are awaiting answers, as all of you are.
We have many understandings as all have navigated this pandemic and the recent increase of COVID cases across the province, and even more specifically within the HRM, and its effect on the staff and student population. From the start of the pandemic, we have supported Public Health’s messaging and actions in regards to proper protective equipment, masking, hand washing and sanitization stations, physical distancing, vaccination, temporary closures and circuit breakers to ensure less spread of the virus, especially recognizing the majority of the children we support were not able to be vaccinated until most recently. Recognizing we need to advocate for our members first and foremost, our organization and your Local fought for continuity of compensation, always realizing we run the risk of not receiving pay if there is no viable work for us within our classifications. For the past 20 months, we’ve recognized the efforts of the provincial government and our employer who have made efforts to maintain a sense of normalcy while maintaining the paid services of its employees. With that being said, we can reasonably expect that work be provided for us, but we definitely recognize the importance of that work being as safe as possible.
In regards to the announcements of the closures, what we know is this:
-The two days in December are due to a lack of staff and substitutes available for work and the two days in January are for Public Health to assess any possible spread from the Holiday season. We recognize the main concerns our members have and provide the following information for you at this time:
1. As always, if you have a concern about your health, well being and safety while in the workplace, please write out these concerns in an email and share them with your site’s Joint Occupational Health and Safety Committee and with your direct supervisor. Every employee has a right to a safe workplace, and our employer has the responsibility to provide it. You have a right to advocate appropriately to maintain a safe workplace and your employer has a responsibility to explain what safety measures are being put in place for you.
2. If you require an accommodation due to childcare, you must request this in an email to your immediate supervisor for consideration. The duty to accommodate means your employer has a responsibility to recognize people have different needs due to different circumstances to remove barriers which prevent employment or compensation, whether that be means of providing the work or adapting the workspace you work in. If you require an accommodation, we advise you to submit it as soon as possible.
We recognize that the situation and information is changing rapidly, and we may see more announcements in the coming days. As always, we remain committed to sharing concrete and verified information only with our members, for we do not wish to add to what may be already overwhelming for most.
We will send out whatever information we can as we get it.
CUPE Local 5047