Peel District School Board cancels school breakfast programs amid work-to-rule action
TORONTO – Food and breakfast programs where money is collected will no longer be offered to students at schools governed by the Peel District School Board as work-to-rule action ramps up for Ontario’s education support workers.
Peel District School Board Director of Education Tony Pontes told Global News the changes would have a “cumulative effect” on schools and that other groups within the board may consider imposing further action.
“We’ve taken a bit of an advanced look at what the impact is on schools and we want to make sure that school are able to do their core, core work — which is really to keep kids safe, to keep schools open and to keep kids engaged in the learning process within their classrooms and so we’ve had to make some hard decisions,” Pontes said.
“They’re all important programs but at this point we can’t ask the principal to do it all.”
The cancellations come a day after the province’s 55,000 education workers started phase two of their work-to-rule campaign.
Among other things, workers have been asked to take their breaks and lunches together, not to complete month end reports, or attend meetings or assist students outside of their paid hours.
The Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario urged Education Minister Liz Sandals in a release Thursday to determine why the board cancelled breakfast programs when teachers were volunteering to continue organizing them.
“The Minister needs to question the Peel school board on why it chose to cancel such an important program when teachers were continuing to volunteer to organize them,” said ETFO President Sam Hammond.
“Teachers volunteer to purchase the food on their own time, volunteer to run the program and clean up after the students finish their breakfast.”
The union representing the workers sent out a statement on Thursday rejecting the claim that school breakfast programs had been cancelled as a result of the work-to-rule job action.
“Breakfast programs are not the responsibility of CUPE members and are not part of the work-to-rule instructions to them,” said Terri Preston, chair of CUPE Ontario’s school board coordinating committee, in a media release.
“We regard full school nutrition programs as a vital aspect of student welfare and they should be fully funded by the ministry.”
The union has demanded that the board reinstate the programs as “no other board found it necessary to take such a decision.”
The board said more programs have been cancelled including school council activities, elections and meetings, printed school newsletters, and recycling and compost programs.
“It is shameful that the Peel school board didn’t care enough about students when it cancelled this important program along with other activities,” said Hammond.
“Instead of blaming teachers and support staff, the education minister needs to ask why the Peel Board took this rash action. She also has to take responsibility for the current labour situation in schools because she has so far failed to negotiate fair and respectful collective agreements with ETFO and CUPE.”
A spokeswoman for ETFO said in a release Thursday the Liberal government and the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association (OPSBA) will rejoin them at the central bargaining table next week.
Bargaining dates have been set for next Monday and Tuesday, the first time that the parties have met since ETFO claimed the government and OPSBA abruptly left the bargaining table on Sept. 11.
The announcement came hours after ETFO filed an Unfair Labour Practice Complaint with the Ontario Labour Relations Board, ETFO said, which alleged the government and OPSBA have violated their obligation under the School Boards’ Collective Bargaining Act to bargain in “good faith.”
ETFO said it would continue its work-to-rule strike action until an agreement “that is specific for ETFO members can be reached.”
“Teachers will continue to provide instruction and other supports to students under the work-to-rule,” the statement read. “The OLRB complaint will proceed at the same time.”
ETFO represents 78,000 elementary public school teachers, occasional teachers and education professionals across the province.
Support staff have been working without a contract for more than a year.
With files from Lama Nicolas
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