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ATA sends OHS inquiry to school divisions

October 6, 2020 Kim Clement (she/her), ATA News Staff

Concerns about teacher well-being prompt probe of health and safety measures

School divisions have until Oct. 5 to respond to requests for information outlined in a letter from the Alberta Teachers’ Association.

Sent to all school divisions on Sept. 17, the letter asks superintendents to provide specifics on the policies and procedures in place in schools to ensure the health and safety of teachers during the COVID-19 pandemic. If a division fails to outline these actions, the Association could pursue a grievance.

“The Association shares the concerns of our members and needs to be confident the measures taken by the division to provide a safe and healthy work environment meet [the division’s] OHS obligations,” the letter says.

It refers to Section 3 of the Occupational Health and Safety Act, which states that employers must take reasonably practical steps to ensure the health and safety welfare of workers and others at or near work sites, to train workers and supply competent supervision, and to communicate information about any health and safety risks at work sites.

“Along with the OHS Act, occupational health and safety language is embedded in the preamble of our central table collective agreement: ‘therefore, school boards have an obligation to ensure the safety of their employees.’ We want to ensure that boards are doing just exactly that. If there are areas that are of concern, we will expect boards to address them,” said ATA president Jason Schilling.

Health and safety, as defined by the Occupational Health and Safety Act, includes physical, psychological and social well-being. For many teachers, school re-entry has placed strains on all three of these areas.

“School divisions said they were ready for near normal operations and the messaging from government, CASS and ASBA is that everything is calm. Our members tell us differently,” said Sean Brown, the ATA’s associate co-ordinator of collective bargaining.

“The Association has a responsibility to its members to ensure that the working conditions they have when delivering their service are safe and conducive to optimal teaching and learning conditions.” ❚

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