Worker by worker or in the context of community, or both, the cornerstone of organized labour is health and safety. Demonstrated over decades of activism and representation and even more so in the pandemic, unions have kept pressure on government and employers to protect all workers.
“Each time students, teachers and education support staff have had to enter and re-enter schools since March of 2020 the unions representing these workers have been, as much as humanly possible, out in front of health and safety issues. This commitment in the context of the return to in-person learning commencing this week sees these unions taking on the same health and safety issues and more with equal intensity,” says Kevin Smith, President of the Grey Bruce Labour Council.
Experts, opposition politicians, Monday morning quarterbacks and many, many more have analyzed the most recent plan put forward by Ontario’s government. To quote one respected public health professional, “this latest plan is perhaps the best bad option available to us ”.
The government of Ontario has often flaunted the best advice of public health officials. Advice, that had it been taken in a timely manner could have mitigated the depth of the pandemic waves and limited the severity of some of the restrictions that the Ford Conservatives enacted. “Thankfully, no matter how badly the government of Ontario has performed in this pandemic the union movement has made a significant difference in keeping workers safer, and when it comes to our schools, our children,” notes Dave Trumble, VP, Bruce, Grey Bruce Labour Council.
Chris Stephen, VP, Grey, Grey Bruce Labour Council states that, “In a pandemic there is no silver bullet that protects everyone, but lives and livelihoods have been saved by the actions of unions and this is powerfully evident when we speak of education unions such as OSSTF, OECTA and ETFO.”
The Grey Bruce Labour Council and the affiliate unions at the council table have always advocated that public health measures and science are the best tools to find our way beyond the pandemic. However, we remain deep in the grasp of this pandemic and along with public health and science and the vast numbers of people doing their very best to adhere to the advice of public health officials, the actions of unions in our public education system provide layers of protection for workers and students. Protections, that despite months of government missteps will continue to add significant barriers to the harm that COVID may still do in our schools.
Kevin Smith, President
Grey Bruce Labour Council