As part of the province’s efforts to redeploy some public sector workers to areas where they are needed most during COVID-19, the government has announced that volunteering education workers will be allowed to fill staffing roles at certain care facilities in Ontario.
This includes facilities such as hospitals, long-term care homes, retirement homes, women’s shelters, and homes serving those with developmental disabilities.
Staffing roles and positions may include custodial, maintenance, food preparation, children and youth service workers, social workers, and educational assistants.
Those who are directly involved in the continuity of learning, such as instructional and special education teachers, are not eligible for redeployment.
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“It is inspiring to see our school boards, trustees, and labour leaders come together and provide education workers with the opportunity to support our frontline workers and take care of our most vulnerable,” said Premier Doug Ford.
“Whether it’s cooking or cleaning, or supporting mental wellness, this voluntary initiative will enable our education workers to go where they’re needed most during this crisis and make a difference in people’s lives and in their communities.”
The government says it has developed a framework with trustees’ associations and almost all provincial union representatives to ensure that the temporarily redeployed education employees will maintain their employment status with their school boards.
Training and safety equipment will be provided to redeployed staff, and the temporary redeployment may be terminated at any time by the employee, current employer, or receiving employer, according to the province.
The first redeployments are already underway, according to Education Minister Stephen Lecce.
“We know that we must do more to care for our seniors ― that is why this agreement is so important,” said Lecce. “It will help pave the way for more staff to be deployed to help give dignity, support, and comfort to our most vulnerable citizens.”
When asked if this arrangement would prevent Ontario’s public schools — which are currently closed until the end of May — from potentially reopening in June, Lecce could not confirm but said the government would soon announce its decision regarding the rest of the school year.
“We plan to do this by early next week,” said Lecce, “and the reason why is that we’re looking to updated modelling from the Chief Medical Officer of Health and the command table.”
The province says starting later this week, eligible education sector staff who volunteer will be able to register through an online portal on the government website and be matched with congregate settings that are facing staffing shortages.