Pair of Winnipeg school divisions announce almost 1,000 layoffs due to COVID-19 pandemic

By | April 24, 2020

River East Transcona School Division is laying off more than 600 employees until classes resume, the division’s superintendent said in a statement to CBC News.

The layoffs are temporary, and normally happen at the end of the school year in June, said Kelly Barkman. But more than 400 educational assistants and at least 200 bus drivers, custodial aides, library technicians “and other support staff,” were cut this week.

“Without students and a full complement of staff in our schools … RETSD, along with all other public sector organizations, found it necessary to temporarily reduce our workforce due to COVID-19,” Barkman said in the statement.

“We look forward to welcoming these valued staff members back to their positions when classes resume.”

Meanwhile, the St. James-Assiniboia School Division told CBC News that it also has layoffs looming as a result of “the indefinite suspension of in-school education” caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

At the end of May, the SJASD plans to layoff 383 educational support staff, including bus drivers, education and “other non-teaching” assistants and library technicians, a spokesperson said in an email.

“These employees significantly contribute to the learning success of SJASD students in a variety of ways and they are essential to our long-term success,” the spokesperson wrote.

“As soon as the division is able to do so, following the return of in-class learning, the division intends to recall all affected staff to rejoin our learning community.”

To reduce the number of layoffs required to create available front-line funding for the province, the division has also put a pause on several capital projects, the spokesperson said.

The River East Transcona and St. James-Assiniboia school divisions are the latest to announce layoffs over the past week.

On Tuesday, the Winnipeg School Division laid off 279 educational assistants, crossing guards and staff who help students care for their babies when they’re at school, plus 51 bus drivers.

On Monday, the Brandon School Division laid off 245 educational assistants, custodians, bus operators and secretaries because it could not “sustain meaningful work” for the staff during the pandemic.

A week ago, the Pembina Trails School Division laid off more than 500 people, though the exactly number was unknown at the time.

Seven Oaks School Division said it will lay off 47 short-term and substitute education assistants on April 30, while 240 permanent education assistants will continue to work.

Bus drivers for the division were given the choice of getting laid off or doing custodial work; 27 drivers will be laid off as of May 13 and 21 drivers will become custodians.

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