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London Community News

Thu Oct 11 2012 

Dear editor,

After hearing that some education workers have received harassment and nasty emails because they have decided not to volunteer to do free labour, I felt the need to voice my opinion.

I am not a teacher; I am an Educational Assistant. EAs assist the teachers and the special needs students, and are under the direction of the principal/supervisor. Educational and Instructional Assistants are known as school board support staff and public service workers. I am a unionized worker and under my collective agreement I work, and am paid for, seven hours a day. I am laid off during Christmas, March Break and the summer.

I too had my collective agreement legislated by this Liberal government (supported by the PCs). I too am under the imposed Bill 115 and have had previous employer negotiated collectively agreed articles from my current collective agreement stripped away. In the past, I too have done extracurricular activities with students after my work hours.

I have decided after the legislation stripped away some of my wages and benefits, that I am not going to offer free labour after my work hours. Is that wrong?

Let’s use your job as an example, say you work at a well-known burger and fries chain and your supervisor came to you and said, ‘Honourable employee we have a large number of young people that hang out in here at night. I have heard many of them sing songs together; they sure could use a little guidance and direction. Would you be willing to offer one or two hours of your time, after your work hours, once a week to plan a glee club so they could improve their skills and talents? I have also heard that there are competitions that they can prepare for and enter; they are on the weekends, but there may only be one or two per season, would you mind doing that’?”

Or, let’s look at the factory worker, the transit worker, the police, the firefighters, the grocery store clerk – you name the worker, pick your job. The supervisor comes and asks: “Honourable employee, I have seen many children and youth hanging around, they seem to have great skills, would you mind starting a club for them to improve their skills and give them some guidance and direction?

“We can arrange competitions on the weekend and maybe they could compete on a provincial level, which will require a bit more of your free time (free labour) – do you mind?”

If you said “no,” would people chastise you and send you nasty emails?

Many educational support staff workers have also participated in extracurricular activities as part of the volunteerism of the job. Do they have to? No. Do they get paid for it? Not usually (although we do have an overtime/lieu time provision in our collective agreement). Many workers and citizens in the community also volunteer after work in clubs and as part of charitable committees, but the difference is, is it an expectation of your job? I think not.

We wanted to bargain our own collective agreement fairly, as we always have, not be legislated by the Liberal government (supported by the PCs). Our right to fair collective bargaining and some of our current provisions were stripped away. If this happened at your job, do you think you would want to work for free now?

Thought provoking isn’t it?

Heather Skolly, CUPE 7575 President