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CUPE Local 997 frustrated with school board after 77 members laid off

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Just over 100 frustrated education workers attended the latest Trillium Lakelands District School (TLDSB) board meeting.

It comes a week and a half after layoff notices were issued to 35 educational assistants (EAs), 37 custodians, two staff from the Yearley Outdoor Education Centre, one clerk from the board’s learning resources centre, and one interpreter, according to William Campbell, President of CUPE Local 997.

The members were from 43 different families, including five in Muskoka.

He says the notices specify a lack of funding as the reason. “But that’s not true,” Campbell adds. He explains the layoffs will take effect at the end of August unless the board decides to change course.

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“They said they’re focusing on teachers,” he goes on to say.

However, Campbell believes with the loss of so many EAs, teachers may find it difficult to teach, specifically to students with learning disabilities. “Going forward, with fewer EAs in the classroom, you’re going to see more outbursts and less learning taking place,” he says.

In his delegation during the school board’s meeting on June 14, Campbell said custodians put in overtime hours to uphold COVID-19 cleaning protocols set by the board and EAs were tireless in providing support to students who needed extra support.

“EAs provide much more all-encompassing support for these students,” Campbell says.

Campbell’s presentation was 15 minutes and no board members, including Wes Hahn, Director of Education, made comments after. That decision was met with boos from the large crowd that assembled at the Muskoka Education Centre where the board was meeting.

Later on, Trustee Louise Clodd asked for clarification on the layoffs.

“It is a process that happens every year,” said Traci Hubbert, Superintendent of Human Resources.

She explained that while CUPE is using the term “layoff,” it doesn’t necessarily mean a job less. It could mean, she added, a reduction in hours or salary.

She said 10 of the 37 custodians that were laid off were only “layoffs of additional responsibility.”

According to Hubbert, EAs historically always deal with layoff notices, adding that five of the 35 notices have since been rescinded.

“We are in the positive position of being in a hiring position for the coming school year for educational assistants,” Hubbert said during the meeting.

Written by Mathew Reisler

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