Air Quality in Schools – The CSQ and its federations are formally calling on the government to take action
MONTREAL, Jan. 24, 2021 /CNW Telbec/ – The Centrale des syndicats du Québec (CSQ) and its affiliated federations – the Fédération des syndicats de l’enseignement (FSE-CSQ), the Fédération du personnel de soutien scolaire (FPSS-CSQ), the Fédération des professionnelles et professionnels de l’éducation du Québec (FPPE-CSQ), the Quebec Provincial Association of Teachers (APEQ-QPAT) and the Fédération du personnel de l’enseignement privé (FPEP-CSQ) – are formally demanding for the government’s prompt response following recommendations made by a group of air quality experts.
Answers regarding air quality tests left union leaders unconvinced, particularly regarding the methodology plan, and several questions remain unanswered. Furthermore, given the lack of scientific consensus on COVID-19’s aerosol transmission, union leaders are calling for a precautionary approach.
In addition to making all necessary and urgent corrections immediately, the CSQ and its federations are demanding that four other measures be implemented without further delay:
- Immediately closing unventilated spaces with no windows, including small meeting rooms. If no safe alternatives are found in these situations, telework should be made mandatory;
- Removing pregnant women from the buildings, with no conditions;
- In rooms with windows, installing air purifiers as backup, and ensuring they are installed by school support staff or a qualified professional;
- Establishing, in the short term, a full equipment register and a detailed maintenance and testing calendar for each facility, and making it available to the public.
“We deplore the lack of foresight and action in the school system, given that the second wave was inevitable. For decades, we’ve been calling for measures to improve the air quality in our schools and centres, but due to austerity policies, we’ve reached a point where we have to open our classroom windows in the dead of winter, which is unacceptable,” wrote Sonia Ethier, CSQ President, in a letter to deputies Roberge and Dubé and Public Health Director Dr. Arruda.
“It goes without saying that for schools to stay open we must be able to ensure the absolute safety of our students and staff. And that’s what teachers want, for the good of the students and their success. But they are definitive – we need to be rigorous and diligent to ensure the air we breathe at work is healthy and our environment is safe,” said Josée Scalabrini, FSE-CSQ President, and Heidi Yetman, APEQ-QPAT President, on behalf of the 73,000 public school teachers they represent together.
“We’ve been talking about ventilation for years and we keep telling the Ministère de l’Éducation that serious action is needed urgently to ensure the health of our staff and students! The current crisis is exacerbating this urgent need. School support staff have the skills required and are part of the solution. But we need to be consulted and involved, which the Ministère is carefully avoiding,” says Éric Pronovost, FPSS- CSQ President.
“Since the beginning of the pandemic, public health measures have ignored professional staff. They are constantly being refused telework, while their classrooms are often windowless and devoid of any proper ventilation. It is unacceptable for them to keep working in these conditions without the necessary measures being taken to protect them. We must also consider the expertise of the engineers and architects who work in our schools – they are in the best position to implement realistic planning solutions,” says Jacques Landry, FPPE-CSQ President.
“If we want to keep schools open, we must also reassure staff by providing them with the right conditions to guarantee their health and safety in the workplace,” added Stéphane Lapointe, FPEP-CSQ President.
About the CSQ
The CSQ represents more than 200,000 members, including approximately 125,000 education staff. The CSQ has 11 federations that include some 240 affiliated unions, as well as AREQ (CSQ), the Association des retraitées et retraités de l’éducation et des autres services publics du Québec. The CSQ is also active in the areas of health and social services, early childhood education services, municipal government, recreation, culture, community and communications.