Pixabay photo

Report to work, or not? Surrey education assistants get conflicting instructions Monday

School snow closure results in frustration for Surrey EAs not knowing if they had to go to work

Mondays can be a drag at the best of times. But for hundreds of Surrey public school education assistants, today was downright surreal.

Early Monday morning Surrey’s teachers awoke to learn they’d be getting a paid holiday made in snow heaven as the city’s students did not have to attend classes because of inclement weather. Hundreds of education assistants, however, were not so blessed.

Education assistants work alongside teachers to provide support to students. They, as, as well as other employees, were told they had to report to work. Or so they thought, until that apparently changed half-way through their working day.

Follow closely, now.

This “Snow Day!” notice was posted to surreyschools.ca on Monday morning: “All Surrey Schools closed today for teachers and students as the district works to clear snow. For school support staff and district offices, it’s business as usual.”

“This is a huge change in policy that we were not aware of,” CUPE local 728 first vice president Tammy Murphy told the Now-Leader. “So we have been working hard with the district today, I have been back-and-forth on emails, trying to call me right now on this issue and as I say, we weren’t aware of the change so we are working with them right now.

“Literally it’s going crazy on Facebook, and on Twitter and I’m guessing everywhere, so we’re trying to help the members, trying to get them informed,” Murphy said. “There’s no wording. I know that past practice was that two years ago we were home as well. We’ve been directed that they go.”

Considering there are no teachers to assist or students to help today, Murphy said she’s “not sure what the expectation is.”

READ ALSO: Surrey union decries ‘epidemic’ level shortage of education assistants in B.C.

VIDEO: Snowstorm brings chaos to Lower Mainland roads

READ ALSO: Surrey RCMP urge drivers to take it slow in the snow

Surrey’s teachers are represented by a different union, the BCTF, and the Surrey Teacher’s Association. Asked if it might be a matter of different language in the collective agreements, Murphy said she’s not certain.

“I’m so sorry we don’t have more information. As I say, it was a policy change that we weren’t aware of.”

Doug Strachan, spokesman for the Surrey School District, confirmed that EAs and “non-teaching” staff were required to report to work Monday.

“There’s obviously far fewer of those staff for us to be able to accommodate some parking spaces for them,” he said. “Education assistants, janitors, clerical staff.”

Asked who the education assistants are expected to assist if there are no teachers or students, Strachan replied “My understanding is there are other duties that can be assigned, even if it’s related to, they have work related to their student or filing or that sort of thing.”

“I know that we have in the past, on snow days, had all staff come in and you could make the same argument that teachers wouldn’t have students there but they would be assigned other duties,” he noted.

Now hang onto your hats, gang. The Now-Leader received a phone call from Strachan at 11:30 a.m. to clarify that the EAs didn’t have to report to work, after all. He said he “got an email a few minutes ago from the superintendent clarifying” that EAs “won’t be required, and weren’t required to come to work, so that’s been clarified.”

Asked how many did report for work, as a result of the confusion, Strachan replied “I don’t know if it was communicated from principals more directly, but he’s just emailed, sent me a copy of an email that he’s clarifying that they aren’t required.”

“I’m just relaying what the superintendent’s relayed.” For those EAs who did show up, Strachan said, “They get paid if they show up to work and get paid if they don’t.”

Asked then if this new development was news to her, Murphy replied, “Yes it is. We actually just had a conversation with him (the superintendent). I know he’s working on the new policy and he said he would inform me of that after his discussion with the principals, but no, we’ve had confirmation that this morning, they were to report to work.”

Asked if she has an idea how many EAs actually showed up to work and didn’t have to, Murphy replied, “I’m unsure of that. I know that a lot of the principals had sent out emails to their staff, and to the CUPE staff, to stay home, and I know that some principals had advised their staff to go to work. I’m hearing mixed things as well because I’ve had my shop stewards calling saying that some schools are saying that we had to go to work and that was not our instructions were told by the superintendent was to have members report to work if their schools were opened.”

She said she’s hoping to receive an answer by day’s end on Monday what the policy will be governing what the expectations are of EAs during district-wide school closures. “We are in discussions with them right now to try and resolve all the issues and all the things that have come up.”

Asked if her members are registering “anger” over this, Murphy told the Now-Leader, “Oh yes. Everybody’s frustrated.”

Meantime, Tuesday is a new day and more snow is expected.

“We’ll be watching the weather overnight, for sure,” Strachan said.

Schools were open in neighbouring Delta but closed in Langley, and Kwantlen Polytechnic campuses were closed for Monday.



tom.zytaruk@surreynowleader.com

Like us on Facebook Follow us on Instagram  and follow Tom on Twitter

Just Posted

UPDATE: Delta man charged in stabbing of woman, off-duty cop outside North Delta elementary school

Manoj George, 49, is facing two counts of aggravated assault and two counts of assault with a weapon after the incident on Wednesday, Feb. 20.

Private school for hockey players pitched for Surrey’s Excellent Ice arena

Lark Group draws up expansion plan for facility built and operated by the Surrey company since 1999

Heritage Surrey launches time-lapse mapping tool

It matches local historical images to modern-day locations

Surrey RCMP asks for public’s help finding missing 52-year-old

Police say William Michaels last seen on Feb. 19

From a drunk judge to Clifford Olson: George Garrett recounts a life in B.C. news radio

New book from ‘Intrepid Reporter’ George Garrett offers readers a glimpse behind the headlines

Sell regulated heroin to curb B.C.’s overdose problem: report

B.C. Centre on Substance Use points to organized crime and money-laundering as contributing factors

B.C. legislature moving suspended staff controversy to outside review

Whale watching, Seattle Mariners trips billed as emergency preparedness, Speaker Darryl Plecas says

Two boys saved after falling through ice in Coquitlam

RCMP say a Good Samaritan pulled the kids to safety

More people signing up for compulsory vaccines

Maple Ridge mom says public tired of hearing about measles

Why do zebras have stripes? Perhaps to dazzle away flies

Researchers from University of Bristol look into why zebras have stripes

Poll: More voters believe Canada doing worse under Trudeau government

22 per cent believed the country is doing better and 27 per cent said things are the same

HBC shuttering Home Outfitters across Canada

North America’s oldest retailer is revamping its various stores to improve profitability

BC SPCA investigates Okanagan woman with prior animal abuse convictions

BC SPCA is investigating a property near Vernon

Man wanted for sex trafficking, confinement may be heading to B.C.

Kevin Myrthil, 26, is also accused of assault on a 19-year-old woman at an Edmonton hotel

Most Read