Front-line CUPE education support workers have been left out of the government’s latest announcement regarding plans to add additional health workers to phase one and two of the vaccine rollout.
“We are glad that the Saskatchewan government has added these essential health workers to the early vaccine list, but we don’t understand why education workers have once again been ignored,” said Rob Westfield, an education support worker and chair of CUPE Saskatchewan’s Education Workers’ Steering Committee. “Students will always be our priority, and we are dedicated to helping them get the education that will allow them to be successful in life. That’s why we want to be at work, but we just want to be safe.”
There are several reasons why education workers are concerned for their safety. Casual education workers were never given a bubble of schools to work in, and as a result, a regular work schedule could mean working in up to 40 schools in a month. Education workers have also been left out of the communication and contact tracing process. Over the past several months, there are a number of incidents where educational assistants were not notified that a student they were in contact with tested positive because public health did not consider them a close contact.
And now, at a time when highly transmittable variant strains of the COVID-19 virus have been detected in Saskatchewan, our government is telling education workers that they will have to wait to get vaccinated.
“Like other essential workers, education workers have no choice but to go to work. Throughout most of this past year, we have been forgotten. We are calling on the Saskatchewan government to act quickly to ensure that education workers are included in any communication regarding contact tracing, and ensure that the health and safety of education workers is respected,” Westfield concluded.