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School workers unite to protect students, families from reopening risk

ATA, AUPE, CUPE Alberta and Unifor issue joint statement

Aug 19, 2020

ATA, AUPE, CUPE Alberta and Unifor issue joint statement

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The Government of Alberta must not cut corners when it comes to keeping Alberts students and families safe from COVID-19 spread in schools, say four Alberta unions representing nearly 60,000 education workers in a joint statement issued today.

All these workers want to make sure that the opening is done as safely as possible to help protect students, staff and associated families.

“Teachers want schools to reopen safely, but the current plans are insufficient. When Premier Kenney, speaking in the Legislature last month, told teachers to ‘tidy up,’ he undermined and effectively ridiculed the very serious concerns teachers had in the government’s deficient return-to-school plan. Teachers are not custodians, and they should be focusing their attention on student learning,” says Jason Schilling, president of the Alberta Teachers Association (ATA).

“The cleaning needed to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 needs to be undertaken throughout the school building over the course of the day on an organized and systematic fashion by staff employed for this purpose. With current funding, however, there is not enough staff available to do that appropriately.”

Rory Gill, president of the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Alberta, said: “Everyone who works in schools is trained to do their own jobs. You cannot expect people to step into the shoes of other workers and do work for which they are not trained. The enhanced cleaning required to keep COVID-19 out of our schools requires a better plan than having people ‘tidy up.’ ”

Gavin McGarrigle, Western Regional Director of Unifor said: “The members of these four unions have committed to doing the work for which they are trained. These professionals are all committed to keeping kids safe. What's lacking is a provincial commitment to the resources to help us succeed.”

Guy Smith, president of the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE), said: “As workers in public schools, the members of these four unions share a common bond and a common goal. That goal is to keep our children safe. We will have no part in placing children at risk because the government refuses to fund enough workers and resources to keep them safe.”

ATA, AUPE, CUPE Alberta and Unifor issued this joint statement today. It says: “The best way to keep the children safe is to have enough staff to do the work and to have these workers do the jobs for which they are trained.”

“That is why members of the Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA), the Alberta Union of Provincial Employees (AUPE), the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) and Unifor all commit to focusing on their own work and not put children at risk by doing work for which they are not trained. Teachers will stick to instruction and assessment; education assistants will stick to helping students; custodial workers will stick to maintenance and cleaning to keep the COVID-19 virus away.”

The statement adds: “The government and school boards have a duty to ensure that there are adequate resources to ensure safety. That means having enough workers; enough masks and other required personal protective equipment; and enough sanitizers, soap and washing stations.”


Jason Schilling, Rory Gill, Gavin McGarrigle and Guy Smith are available for interviews.

To reach Jason Schilling, please contact Mark Milne at 780-905-0014.
To reach Rory Gill, please call 403-988-6966 or email
To reach Gavin McGarrigle, please contact Ian Boyko at 778-903-6549.
To reach Guy Smith, please contact Terry Inigo-Jones at 403-831-4394.

News Category

  • Media release


  • 071 - Colleges and School Divisions


  • Education

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