School staff start working to rule
Five things parents should know about the Peterborough situation
Support staff in schools in the Peterborough area and across the province are working to rule, which is impacting the day-to-day work of teachers, students, workers and parents.
Talks between the provincial government, trustee associations and the Canadian Union of Public Employees broke off Sunday night, leading the Canadian Union of Public Employees’ 55,000 caretakers, educational assistants, office workers and early childhood educators to begin a work-to-rule campaign Monday at most boards across Ontario.
While there are still many questions, and the situation could change as the job action progresses, here’s a look at the issues.
What is work to rule and how is it different from a strike?
On Monday, workers were in a legal strike position and work to-rule is one form of job action they are allowed to take. Unlike going on strike, workers still go to work each day and perform their duties.
However, workers fulfil only the minimum requirements of their jobs until the job action is ended.
For example, in a letter sent to workers by Ontario School Board Council of Unions, workers are told not to participate in volunteering for clubs and other nonpaid activities, attending meetings outside paid hours or answering calls or emails outside work hours.
For caretakers, that means not cleaning halls, offices or gyms, doing grounds work, filling work orders and doing recycling or composting.
Why is this happening?
CUPE is the union for school support workers, such as caretakers, educational assistants, secretaries, IT workers and librarians.
CUPE has a collective bargaining agreement with the province, which was set to expire. The two sides could not reach an agreement, even after last-minute two-day negotia
tions over the weekend.
Because of that, CUPE workers voted to perform job action, and they have the legal ability to do so.
Does this mean schools aren’t being cleaned?
Yes and no.
Caretakers are still working, but are only cleaning ministryfunded areas. That means classrooms and bathrooms will still be serviced.
Diane Lloyd, chair of the Kawartha Pine Ridge District School Board, said other people “would have to pick up the work they do.”
Will schools close because of this?
Not yet. There has been no word of schools needing to close, but this is just Phase 1 of CUPE’s job action. The union has not yet said what Phase 2 entails, or given a timeline for when it will move to that state.
Neither of the school boards for the Peterborough area would say how long schools could continue to operate without support staff.
The schools could get messy? Oh no, should I pull my child from class?
Probably not necessary. Classrooms are still being cleaned and some teachers may pick up some of the slack.
If it gets to the point where students are unable to stay in schools, the school boards will make those decisions.