September 22, 2020

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Winnipeg school divisions jettison pandemic-idled support staff

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS FILES</p><p>South Pointe School, just one of the schools belonging to Pembina Trails School Division which recently laid of up to 500 staff members because the division doesn’t have any work for them.</p>


South Pointe School, just one of the schools belonging to Pembina Trails School Division which recently laid of up to 500 staff members because the division doesn’t have any work for them.

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Hundreds of school support staff have joined the ever-growing list of Winnipeggers out of work due to COVID-19 workforce disruptions.

Last week, the Pembina Trails School Division informed upwards of 500 staff members that for the time being, the division doesn’t have any work for them.

"It is with great sadness that we must temporarily reduce our workforce, due to COVID-19 and the directive from the province to lessen spending and support critical services during this pandemic," spokeswoman Stacey Ashley said in an emailed statement.

Among the positions being temporarily eliminated, 472 educational assistants, 32 library technicians and 24 bus drivers.

A total of 370 breakfast and lunch supervisors, crossing guards and bus duty positions combined, and 36 staff who support programs including after-school sessions, are also on the list of temporary layoffs.

Since these staffers — many of them part-time employees — often take on overlapping roles, the division estimates the tally is above the 500 mark.

At the opposite end of the city, 47 educational assistants in the Seven Oaks School Division will be out of work starting next month.

Superintendent Brian O’Leary said the division has also offered bus drivers the option of custodial work or a layoff; 21 employees have accepted the former and 27 have accepted the latter, effective May 13.

The province has tasked divisions with finding "meaningful work" for all staff, if possible. At the same time, Premier Brian Pallister has made clear that public-sector employees will not be paid if they are not working.

"Our division is trying very hard to maintain our employment levels, as is and making sure all of our staff have meaningful work. That’s the key — to make sure they have meaningful work," said Radean Carter, of the Winnipeg School Division.

Carter said Monday the province’s largest division is still in the process of determining what kind of work is available to each staff member.

Other Winnipeg area divisions, including the Louis Riel School Division and the St. James Assiniboia School Division, have also yet to announce any related reductions; spokespeople for both suggested Monday there were no immediate plans to revisit staffing levels.

The River-East Transcona School Division did not provide details about any layoffs before deadline Monday.

Twitter: @macintoshmaggie

Maggie Macintosh

Maggie Macintosh

Maggie Macintosh reports on education for the Winnipeg Free Press. Funding for the Free Press education reporter comes from the Government of Canada through the Local Journalism Initiative.

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