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Ontario allowing school board employees to be voluntarily redeployed to congregate care settings

Ford: ‘I am encouraging any available educational workers to help out if you can’

TORONTO — The Ontario government has issued an emergency order that would allow school board employees to be voluntarily redeployed to congregate care settings during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The new emergency order, announced on Saturday morning by Premier Doug Ford and minister of education Stephen Lecce, would allow school board employees to work in hospitals, long-term care homes, retirement homes and women’s shelters.

Many of these places, the province says, require custodial and maintenance staff, among other positions.

“Many of our long-term care homes, and shelters are short of staff,” said Ford.

“I am encouraging any available educational workers to help out if you can, because you can make a real difference in the lives of those most in need.”

Lecce stated that many unions representing school board workers have expressed support for helping out during the pandemic. However, no provision in the School Boards Collective Bargaining Act allows the redeployment of staff to non-education employers, hence the need for the emergency order.

“This emergency order opens the door for our educational workers to voluntarily go where they are needed most during this crisis,” said Lecce.

School boards now have the authorization, under the emergency act, to develop and implement staff redeployment plans.

Staff who volunteer to work at a congregate care setting during the pandemic will maintain their employment relationship with the school board and will continue to be paid and receive benefits. They will receive training and appropriate safety equipment.

The province says those staff will also be eligible for the government’s pandemic pay and emergency childcare.