Quebec may assign Nunavik school staff to help in health care
Union worries about safety measures
Updated on April 14 at 11 a.m.
Nunavik’s teachers, who learned on March 24 that the region’s schools would remain closed for the rest of the academic year, may be back to work before then, but in health facilities, not schools.
Quebec Health Minister Danielle McCann issued a ministerial decree on April 10 to allow for the assignment of education and higher education workers to health facilities, including shelters and long-term care centres, in certain regions.
This decree could affect 300 staff and teachers with the Association of Employees of Northern Quebec union.
The AENQ plans to hold a conference call on Tuesday morning to discuss the reassignment of Kativik Ilisarniliriniq’s education staff to the health care and social services sector.
“If the board chooses to reassign its staff, they have the obligation to consult with us,” said AENQ President Larry Imbeault in an email to Nunatsiaq News.
The Centrale des Syndicats du Québec, which represents thousands of education staff across Quebec, said on April 11 that “with respect to the ministerial order, the CSQ indicated that it is essential that the government ensure that all health and safety measures are taken to protect workers before assigning staff to another sector, which is far from clear at this time.”
The union’s concern is shared by a teacher who left Nunavik earlier this month who said in an email, “It’s crazy.”
“I don’t know how to do this kind of work safely!”
Before leaving Nunavik, having no students to teach, this teacher was among those who were told they had to “volunteer” to clean public buildings—an order that was later retracted.
On April 8, the KI sent a letter out to teachers and staff, reminding its unionized employees that they continue to be paid and “must remain available and can be reassigned at any moment to ensure that ‘the health and social services network has the necessary human resources.'”
The KI said in its operations update that these orders apply to the redeployment of staff to other essential services during the COVID-19 crisis.
“As such, KI employees who are in Nunavik can be assigned to essential services of the Nunavik Board of Health and Social Services,” the KI said.
Assignment by a decree would be made according to job title and “in inverse order of seniority,” so the least senior staff would be called up first.
The KI said teachers who are volunteering with another organization must let the KI know and let the organizations know that that they may be assigned other duties.
Requisitioned staff would be paid through KI while on loan and they would also continue to accumulate seniority, vacation days and other benefits while working in the health network.
Nunavik now has 10 confirmed COVID-19 cases, nine in the community of Puvirnituq.
Clarification: The headline was updated to make it clearer that the story is about the reassignment of staff.