Why I Joined the Ontario Education Workers General Commission: Outsourced by Public School Teachers
of World Socialist website I received the following letter from an Ontario public school teacher explaining why she decided to join the recently established Ontario Education Workers General Commission (OEWRFC).
OEWRFC was founded last month by teachers, caretakers and educational assistants to mobilize all education workers across the state in a union-independent political struggle to end the COVID-19 pandemic and defend public education. it was done.can read OEWRFC Founding StatementClick here to contact the committee. [email protected].
I am writing this letter because despite the abandonment of all COVID-19 mitigation measures, Ontario elementary and middle schools have resumed in-person learning for another year, resulting in unjustifiable cases, hospitalizations and deaths. I wrote it while it was still high.
As summer ended and preparations for the new semester began, I was overwhelmed by the usual anxiety and excitement. The clouds were closing in. When Prime Minister Doug Ford abandoned mask mandates in much of Ontario in March 2022, all corners of our personal and professional lives were fighting infection and disease. For an educator like myself, it was a huge disappointment. Sadly, it was a sign of things to come.
As someone with an immunocompromised partner and family member, going to work I loved was an unfair dilemma. Taking on the role of a virtual school teacher in the 2020-21 school year, at a time when school boards were rapidly reconfiguring traditional learning plans in light of evolving public health guidance, I learned to teach virtually at home. Thank you for working. However, that role was not extended until the following year. Instead, we implemented a hybrid learning model to facilitate in-person and at-home students.
The Ford administration touted the hybrid model as a way for students to have flexible access to education in the face of in-person disruption, but an additional burden on teachers’ workloads and associated denials of student achievement and engagement. This model was unsustainable, poorly implemented, and angered parents, teachers, students, and health professionals. We all breathed a sigh of relief when the board decided to end his 2022-2023 model, but that denies the hardships workers will have to endure. It wasn’t.
Our public schools have been plagued with underfunding for decades, but even the fear of outbreaks and disabilities is making sure we invest enough in our schools to make them safe for staff and students. It wasn’t enough of a reason to do it. Education unions such as ETFO (Ontario Primary Teachers’ Federation), OECTA (Ontario Association of English Catholic Teachers), OSSTF (Ontario Middle School Teachers’ Federation) and AEFO (French Ontario Primary Teachers’ Federation) have expressed their concerns in the media. Through a joint letter submitted in December 2021 to the office of Prime Minister Ford, Minister Christine Elliott and Stephen his Lecce Minister. Unions acknowledged school-based and community measures, including increased access and greater facilitation of booster shots, improved ventilation and air quality. Filtration in classrooms, provision of high-quality N95 masks and rapid antigen testing (RAT) for staff, and mandatory paid sick leave for employees require ‘substantial political will to implement’ However, it was necessary to ensure a safe return to school thereafter. winter break.
Due to the high transmissibility of Omicron variants, it is not surprising that the number of cases and hospitalization rates surged during this period. After returning to school, reports on social media indicated that some schools, like mine, were only offering improved masks and rationed his RAT in limited quantities. We were (and still are) operating with dirty air, poor masking compliance, and unvaccinated staff and students allowed to attend with no repercussions. Given the well-established science of SARS-CoV-2 aerosol transmission, according to Public Health Canada, the classification of the virus as a Level 3 biohazard and unions acknowledging the virus’s airborne and asymptomatic nature. According to its own Health and Safety Commission, it’s no surprise the union called for a strike because of these hazards. But they simply refused to do so. As a result, tens of thousands of educators and students have been needlessly infected, many have died, and countless others have long been silently suffering from her COVID and other post-infectious conditions. increase.
After unions failed to launch a strike campaign, the Ford government felt it had the right to begin dismantling the necessary protections in 2022. This includes removing mandatory vaccinations for staff, waiving contact tracing and close contact reporting in schools, and of course gradual population “exposure”. The message of the union also underwent a distinct shift at this time. Local contacts made little mention of COVID-19 mitigation in schools and simply repeated government messages about optional masking in the workplace. is now a “mask option” and is now held in person again (meals will be provided). Despite complaining to the locals about this logistical change, the indoor meeting went on as scheduled.
At this point it became clear that my union was no longer interested in pushing for common sense measures and that the leadership was more than happy to parrot the new propaganda going forward. That fact will become even clearer to me as the General Assembly (AGM) has resumed in person for the first time since 2019. The importance of fighting for health and safety in schools.
When I turned to independent news outlets for information about the pandemic, I was deeply moved by WSWS’s reporting and analysis. There were people in education workers and other industries dealing with rampant gaslighting and misinformation from employers, union leaders and elected officials. I knew that a general committee had been set up, so I felt there was a place for workers like me who had been abandoned and discouraged by the union.
As Ontario educators enter a year of negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement, more is at stake than ever before. Wages, benefits and working conditions are all part of the struggle, but where will the pandemic fall? Not even at the bottom of the list. Updated and improved vaccines will emerge, but it will take time and the results are yet to be determined. As long as the emerges, more lives will be at risk. Education workers across Ontario and Canada must rally to keep schools safe and fight for the protections needed to end the pandemic once and for all.