School staff start work­ing to rule

Five things par­ents should know about the Peter­bor­ough sit­u­a­tion

The Peterborough Examiner - - FRONT PAGE -

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.

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