Health Experts Show Need for Provincial Health and Safety Protocols in Schools
In August, Ontario’s four major education unions, the Association des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-ontariens (AEFO), the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario (ETFO), the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA), and the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF/FEESO) requested a meeting with the Minister of Labour to discuss concerns with the government’s “Guide to Re-Opening Ontario’s Schools.” The unions argued that the guide fails to meet the requirements set out in the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act, because it does not take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances to protect teachers and education workers as is required by Section 25(2)(h) of the Act. Read about the initial request to the Ministry of Labour HERE.
Following the failure of the Ministry of Labour to adequately respond to their requests for appropriate health and safety standards in publicly funded schools, the four unions filed formal appeals with the Ontario Labour Relations Board (OLRB). Read about the launch of appeals HERE.
Unfortunately, the Chair of the OLRB dismissed the appeals on jurisdictional grounds, without hearing the substantive evidence. Read the response to the OLRB decision HERE.
If the hearing had moved forward, the OLRB would have heard compelling evidence of the provincial government’s lack of protocols to ensure the health and safety of Ontario’s schools, in violation of their obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act. The experts the unions were preparing to bring forward would have presented information based on their professional expertise that supported the need to establish provincial standards on class size and distancing, cohorts for students and teachers, masking, ventilation, and busing. Because they were not able to present this evidence to the OLRB, the unions and experts held a media conference to make this vital information public. Watch the recording, HERE.
Read the expert reports of:
- Dr. David Fisman, epidemiologist at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health at University of Toronto, who also serves as a Consultant in Infectious Diseases at the University Health Network
- Dr. Amy Greer, Tier 2 Canada Research Chair in Population Disease Modeling, University of Guelph and Associate Professor in Epidemiology at the Dalla Lana School of Public Health
- Dr. Jeff Siegel, professor of civil engineering at the University of Toronto and a specialist in indoor air quality, ventilation, and filtration
Despite the setback at the OLRB, the four education unions will continue to demand that the Ministry of Education, the Ministry of Labour, and the Ford government do everything they can to make schools as safe as possible. Read the press release HERE.