Termination of 500 Peel education workers will destabilize classrooms and harm children: OPSEU/SEFPO

Toronto – Classrooms are being thrown into chaos and instability with the recently announced termination of nearly 500 education workers at the Peel District School Board (PDSB), including Education Assistants (EAs) and Early Childhood Educators (ECEs) represented by OPSEU/SEFPO.

“These cuts hurt kids the most – kids who are already suffering with out-of-control class sizes and crumbling infrastructure,” said OPSEU/SEFPO President JP Hornick. These staffing cuts will mean no replacements to cover sick days or leaves of absence; it will mean less support for kids, including our youngest and most vulnerable students, and it will mean classrooms that simply aren’t as safe.”

Currently, Peel District School Board schools face an approximate 30 per cent fill rate on EA and ECE vacancies. This means that 70 per cent of the time, there aren’t enough staff to provide classroom coverage when an EA or ECE calls in sick. The union warns that with the return to school and impending cold and flu season, this will spell disaster for schools, and families, in Peel Region.

“Every single one of these workers is needed,” said Melody Hurtubise, President of OPSEU/SEFPO Local 2100. “Like all school boards in Ontario, ours is already facing a critical shortage of education workers – many of them racialized women and single mothers. They do this work because they care deeply about students, despite the below-average wages. They ensure classrooms run smoothly, and they deserve the utmost respect – not their jobs slashed.”

Despite its posturing, the Ford government continues to strain the public education system beyond its breaking point. Since taking office in 2018, per pupil funding has plunged under Ford’s watch.

“This is the purposeful dismantling of our public education system by a corrupt government whose priorities are all wrong,” said Hornick. “It’s why we’re demanding the immediate reversal of this decision and calling on the Ford government to step it up for students and the education workers who support them, by negotiating fair wage increases and ensuring safe staffing levels in Peel and across Ontario.

“It’s never too late to do what’s right for our kids. Our members – many of whom are also parents and proud members of the Peel community – will continue to demand it.”