OPSEU/SEFPO advocacy pays off as education workers granted vaccine eligibility

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Toronto – OPSEU/SEFPO President Warren (Smokey) Thomas says the union’s advocacy on behalf of education workers has paid off, with the Ford government extending vaccine eligibility to front-line education workers and teachers.

As part of the government’s plan to keep schools open, Ford announced today that special education workers and all education workers in high-risk neighbourhoods in Toronto and Peel will be eligible for vaccination beginning during the April break, which starts next week.

“Education workers, who are the very soul of our schools, are finally getting the recognition and support they deserve,” said Thomas. “No longer the forgotten front-line heroes of the pandemic, we are thrilled to see our hard-fought advocacy pay off and commend the government for listening to front-line workers.”

OPSEU/SEFPO proudly represents 7500 education workers in Ontario. The union has been fiercely advocating on their behalf throughout the pandemic, calling for enhanced safety measures like strict and standardized tracing protocols and enhanced PPE availability.

OPSEU/SEFPO First Vice-President/Treasurer Eduardo (Eddy) Almeida called today’s announcement another step in the right direction but said it’s time for the government to take an even bigger leap by repealing Bill 124, which caps education workers’ wage increases for the next three years.

“Education workers have put their safety – and their lives – on the line during this crisis,” said Almeida. “While other school workers have been granted the safety of working from home, these folks continue to risk it all to support their students, many of whom depend on structure, routine and close physical contact.

“Education workers are the very definition of heroes,” said Almeida. “They should be treated with the respect and dignity they deserve. We hope vaccination eligibility will be extended to education workers in other areas.”

“We are glad this government is listening,” said Thomas. “We’ve moved the ball down the field in significant, and lifesaving, ways during this pandemic.

“We couldn’t be more proud of the heroic efforts of our education workers during these challenging times,” said Thomas. “OPSEU/SEFPO will remain a fierce advocate for Ontario’s education workers.”

For more information: Warren (Smokey) Thomas, 613-329-1931

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