Education Minister Dominic Cardy hinted Monday that some schools may reopen to “face-to-face” learning if the strike continues – if CUPE management contacts him to discuss it.
In a union press conference broadcast live Monday, Day 4 of a strike by thousands of provincial CUPE employees, Cardy urged union leadership to reach out to her with “solid commitments” that would reopen safe at least some schools.
On Sunday, the New Brunswick government locked out all undesignated employees of CUPE Locals 1253 and 2745, including janitors, bus drivers, school library assistants and administrative support, as well as a number of educational assistants, as workers continue to strike for wages. .
Cardy said that even if all the staff designated as essential showed up, there would not be enough to keep schools open for in-person learning, so all schools were switching to e-learning for the duration of the shift. strike.
However, he passed the buck to CUPE management on Monday.
“If CUPE is ready to make strong commitments that are quite standard in many collective bargaining around which schools will be affected on which days, and we can have some level of predictability, then we can start having the conversation. To determine how schools can be safely opened for ‘face-to-face’ learning, at least in one form or another.
Online learning set to continue next week
Cardy stressed that such talks would not be part of the negotiation, but rather would be meant to deal with the impact on schools as the strike progresses.
“My first hope is that this strike will end in the hours, and not the days, to come, with a collectively negotiated solution,” he said. “But in the absence of that … I hope CUPE management will hear the message I just gave and get it across.”
Even if Cardy and CUPE manage to agree on some sort of hybrid school reopening, that won’t happen this week, and probably not next week either.
âFor this week it will be 100% e-learning and at this point I have no expectations that will change for next week,â Cardy said.
âAnd if the strike, God forbid, spans a third week,â he said, e-learning will continue that week as well.
Students are welcome to participate in online learning
Earlier Monday, some parents said they were not participating in the online school in solidarity with workers, especially teacher assistants, who are on strike or locked out by the province.
Asked how many of the province’s 100,000 students who did not participate in e-learning on Monday, Cardy replied that he did not have those numbers.
âWe have a decentralized school system when it comes to keeping track of all of these things,â Cardy said, âand I can tell you that one thing I absolutely didn’t do on the first day of school. system-wide transition to online learning … it’s asking them to send me numbers. “
But he encouraged “as many students as possible” to participate in online learning.
âDuring the pandemic, we have already lost weeks of school,â he said. “Students fear they will fall further behind because of the consequences of the strike.”
Cardy acknowledged that some families face âbarriersâ to participating in home learning.
He noted that the provincial laptop subsidy program remains in place to ensure all students have access to the technology needed to participate.
As part of the program, launched during the pandemic, the department purchased 1,600 electronic devices, spread across the seven school districts, which could be loaned to kindergarten to grade 8 students who needed home learning. .
Some teachers’ salaries could be delayed
Some teachers’ salaries could be delayed if the strike lasts for weeks or more, Cardy confirmed.
Some of the government workers locked out this weekend are dealing with teachers’ pay.
âDay-to-day substitute teachers, long-term substitute teachers who participate in the strike will be paid on November 5. If the strike persists, some of these problems could be affected, âhe said.
“But the payroll staffâ¦ are absolutely on strike right now, it will have an impact in a few weeks. That is why we need toâ¦ push as hard as possible to have this strike resolved as quickly as possible.”
Ready to talk, but “there has to be a balance”: Higgs
Premier Blaine Higgs also provided an update on the work Monday, in which he repeatedly stressed that the province is “open to working with CUPE” and pledges to “do what is necessary to protect the Neo -Brunswicker â.
In a press conference held just over an hour after Cardy’s update, Higgs said the strike had noticeable effects on the COVID-19 vaccine and testing clinics.
“It is a concern for us,” he said.
The situation is being watched closely, he said, and if it reaches a point where New Brunswickers are at risk, “we will take action to address it.”
When asked if the province’s offer to CUPE was its final offer or if there was room for concessions, Higgs said it was “important to leave the door open.”
However, he said, CUPE was “not interested in viable pensions” or “affordable” wages.
“I’m ready to sit down and talk, but there has to be a balance,” he said.
He said that the impacts of the strike of 22,000 provincial employees who are members of the Canadian Union of Public Employees are being felt in several sectors, but particularly in education and health.
Where the effects are felt
Services affected by the strike include cleaning, logistics, vaccination clinics and COVID-19 testing, education system, laundry services, ferry service, corrections, court reporting services and protection services for adults and children.
On Monday, the province listed the following impacts:
All schools in the province switched to home learning on Monday. Students will continue to learn at home until the end of the strike.
In addition to most correctional facility workers as well as probation officers, victim services coordinators, and support and maintenance staff, CUPE locals involved in the strike include court reporters.
The provincial government said it has emergency plans in place to allow essential services to continue.
The strike affects the provision of laundry services in hospitals and some nursing homes in the metropolitan areas of Fredericton, Saint John and Moncton.
Continued delays in ferry service are to be expected across the province. Motorists can check for updates regarding any impact on ferry services, by calling 511, checking the NB511 Twitter page or the NB511 website.
Ferries resume service after disruption
The ferries were back online Monday after a weekend hiatus, but the province and CUPE disagree on why most ferries were offline.
Service was restored on the Gondola Point and Evandale ferry lines and continues on the Westfield crossing, which also operated on Sunday.
CUPE Local 1190, which represents ferry workers among others, is among those who went on strike last Friday.
Depending on the ferry route, 60 to 70 percent of workers are designated essential and must continue working, said Local 1190 president Brent Wiggins. He said the province has a list of these designated workers and it is up to the employer to call the designated workers and avoid a disruption in service.
Mark Taylor, spokesman for the Department of Transportation, said some of those designated workers did not show up over the weekend.
“I can confirm that the ferry service was not operational because for some reason the designated employees … not all, but some designated employees, did not show up for work on weekends,” he said. -he declares. “I can’t talk to anything else.”
Wiggins said it was “the first time I’ve heard of it.”
“We have been perfectly clear and our members know both nominated and unnamed people very well,” he said. âThey know very well, if you are nominated, that you have to go on and go and do your job.
“We can’t tell people not to go to work if they’re assigned.”
Taylor said the Belleisle ferry was offline, Kennebecasis Island finished two weeks earlier and the Peninsula Princess was operating on Friday but is currently offline.