Education workers throughout Ontario are condemning the decision by York Catholic District School Board (YCDSB) and its trustees to shutter its school libraries and lay off all its library technicians, slamming the move as a short-sighted one that will hurt students’ ability to recover from the learning losses incurred during the months of schools’ shutdown.
“York Catholic is the only board in the Greater Toronto Area that’s treating its libraries, students and workers this way,” said Mary DiFederico, president of CUPE 2331, which represents almost 2000 administrative and instructional support workers at YCDSB. “It should alarm parents and everyone who is part of the school community.”
“Municipal libraries have reopened,” noted DiFederico, “and other boards have kept their school libraries open and some are operating them on a restricted basis. But YCDSB and its trustees seem happy to deny our students all the benefits that school libraries offer.”
Approximately 30 library technicians started back to work in York Catholic’s high schools and elementary schools at the beginning of September, only to receive layoff notices on Monday September 14 – timing and process that the union called callous and uncaring. The layoffs take effect in two weeks.
DiFederico also said the decision blindsided every education worker at YCDSB because “it’s not like there is no work to do. Library technicians themselves play vital roles in supporting school databases, keeping track of circulating equipment, and assisting students and parents with login issues.”
According to DiFederico, CUPE also offered YCDSB flexibility in assigning library technicians additional duties such as study hall supervision of and clerical support in school offices. She also reached out to individual YCDSB trustees last week but was told they had approved the layoffs at an “in camera” meeting in early September.
“The reality is that the work of these library technicians remains critical to student success and safety. YCDSB has absolutely no justification for laying them off at this crucial time,” said Laura Walton, president of CUPE’s Ontario School Board Council of Unions (OSBCU), which represents 55,000 education workers.
“There have been no funding cuts, no school closures. And terms of staffing, school need all hands on deck. It’s absolutely foolhardy for YCDSB to get rid of 30 skilled and caring workers – people who know the schools and know the students - when COVID has created so many more demands on staff in schools.”
CUPE says it will fight these layoffs through the province’s central dispute process, but is also urging parents, students, and staff to demand that YCDSB and its trustees follow the lead of other school boards and rescind its layoff notices.
“With our allies in the schools and the community, we won’t be silent until this Board does the right thing and ensures that libraries in our schools have the resources and staff that students and teachers need for a successful school year,” said DiFederico.