November 1, 2021
I felt it was important to reach out to all members in order to keep you informed of the position of the Federation with regards to the recent strike action of CUPE, and the release of the government operational plan.
We currently find ourselves in an exceptional situation where the Collective Agreement is silent on learning from home since this concept is relatively new and has only become a focus of discussion and a recent expectation of the employer. It is evident that the topic of learning from home will be a focal point during the next round of negotiations.
During the school year, teachers have a contractual responsibility to attend school and be available to teach or to carry out other professional duties as assigned by the employer. Therefore, if schools continue to operate during a work stoppage, teachers must continue to work.
We understand that this situation is not ideal, but article 16.03 of the Collective Agreement states that when a school is closed by the employer, teachers are not required to be present unless activities requiring their presence have been scheduled. In this situation, the employer had planned at home learning for the duration of the strike.
With the action taken by CUPE on Friday, schools in New Brunswick were given an operational day without instruction or students to allow teachers time to prepare and transition to home learning, which began today and will continue for the duration of the job action. Districts will release information to students, parents, teachers and school administrators as to what home learning may look like. Initial direction received from the employer suggests that the approach and expectations will be very similar to how things have operated when home learning was required as a result of interruptions by COVID-19.
It is our understanding that the employer has shared these general expectations for teachers for home learning during a job action
- Establish a daily check in/connection with students.
- Gr. K – 2 will utilize learning packages or online connections.
- Gr. 3 – 8 will utilize learning packages and online where possible, following the regular classroom schedule.
- Gr. 9 -12 will utilize online learning and include period check-ins to confirm attendance.
It is our understanding that the employer has shared these general expectations for principals during a job action:
- Communicate with parents the availability of your school for essential items i.e. personal items, learning resources, etc.
- Communicate with staff the hours school will be open each day for teaching materials/resources. Where possible, this should cover the normal school day i.e. 8:30-3:30. In school administration can decide on a schedule that best meets their needs. Smaller schools may only need to be open for half days.
- Communicate with parents how they may reach the school during this time of at home learning.
Other Clarifications for Teachers
- The lockout announced over the weekend means teachers will have limited access to schools during the strike to pick up personal items and additional materials. Individuals who wish to continue work from their school will have to request permission from their school administrators, as entry may not always be possible and will depend on the operational requirements and safety of the school since custodial and maintenance services are no longer available.
- If working from home results in additional expenses for teachers, they should follow up with their school administrators who will seek guidance from the District regarding possible alternatives.
- Teachers who haven’t demonstrated to the employer that they are fully vaccinated will continue to self- test at home as required by the employer.
- It is important to know that all school districts have a payroll contingency plan which will allow for teachers to continue to be paid during the job action. Should you have any questions regarding your pay or benefits you are to contact your district’s Human Resources Department.
- All pre-approved leaves will still be honored and teachers who are absent must be replaced as per the Collective Agreement which remains in place.
As Executive Director of the NBTF, I have been in contact with CUPE leadership on several occasions prior to the job action and over the weekend. They are aware of the limitations placed on our members as a result of not being in a legal strike position. The Federation will continue to communicate and offer support to CUPE. It is our hope that our members continue to demonstrate a high level of professionalism, respect, and understanding towards their CUPE co-workers.
Teachers wishing to support their CUPE co-workers at their local level by participating on picket lines may do so with the permission of CUPE and after the hours of instruction. You are also able to participate on social media, it is however important to always exercise your professional judgment regarding the content and timing of shared messages.
I know that this is a difficult time for everyone given that we are currently in the middle of a pandemic which has placed a great deal of expectations on teachers. The situation with job action is ever changing and information from the employer will continue to be released over the next several days. The Federation staff will continue to monitor the situation and update members as necessary. Please watch for updates.
Thank you for your support in this matter and should you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to reach out.
Kerry L. Leopkey
NBTF Executive Director