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What could a work-to-rule in Ontario schools look like?
Hallways, offices and gymnasiums in Ontario schools may not be cleaned come Monday, as thousands of school support workers launch a work-to-rule campaign aimed at putting pressure on the contract negotiation process.
The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) released a list of services that custodians, clerical staff, educational assistants, early childhood educators, librarians and food services workers would scale back, as the union ramps up its battle with the province.
The comprehensive list suggests that students would feel the effects of the job action almost immediately, both inside and outside the classroom.
Custodians have been advised to stop cleaning “ministry unfunded areas” such as hallways, office areas and gymnasiums. Outdoor ground maintenance, such as cutting the grass and shoveling snow, would also stop.
Clerical staff, including those working in the principal’s office, is being instructed not to supervise student, administer medication or perform lice checks. They are also being told not to maintain or fix any issues with photocopiers or laminators, including replacing paper and clearing jams.
Educational assistants are being advised not to begin a class “unless a teacher is present” and not to prepare materials “of any kind” for class. The classroom assistants would also stop taking student attendance and stop participating in nutrition programs.
Early childhood educators (ECE) are being told to stop accepting teaching assignments and not to prepare any materials for class outside of their paid work hours. ECEs are to only supervise students in the Kindergarten program and only help children in their own class to use the toilet.
Library workers would also stop supervising students without a teacher present, which would extend to yard duty and lunch clubs. Librarians are also being told not to participate in book fairs and not to lead book clubs and robotics teams.
Food service workers are being told to prepare only one menu item per day, instead of providing students with multiple options, and to stop wiping down tables and cleaning the dining room – duties that will be left up to custodians.
The first phase of the work-to-rule campaign is expected to begin on Sept. 30, when the union officially enters legal strike position.
Officials with the Toronto District School Board suggest that the initial impact will be minimal.
“Schools will remain open during this work-to-rule and instructional programs will continue to run,” the board said in a statement.
Ontario Education Minister Stephen Lecce says, however, that the union has accepted its offer to bargain for two more dates before the deadline, but hopes that if job action is launched that student safety will be top of mind.
“I do not believe that a child in Ontario has to have their safety compromised as a result,” Lecce told reporters at Queen’s Park.