Québec trade union calls on the government to take action on air quality in schools

The Centrale des syndicats du Québec (CSQ) and its federations are formally calling on the government to take action air quality in schools. Photo © BigStockPhoto.com
The Centrale des syndicats du Québec (CSQ) and its federations are formally calling on the government to take action air quality in schools.
Photo © BigStockPhoto.com

The Centrale des syndicats du Québec (CSQ) and its affiliated federations are formally demanding for the government’s prompt response following recommendations made by a group of air quality experts.

The affiliated federations include 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 Québec Provincial Association of Teachers (APEQ-QPAT), and the Fédération du personnel de l’enseignement privé (FPEP-CSQ).

Answers regarding air quality tests left union leaders unconvinced, particularly regarding the methodology plan, and several questions remain unanswered. Further, 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 four other measures be implemented without further delay:

  • immediately closing unventilated spaces with no windows, including small meeting rooms and 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; and
  • 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 have been calling for measures to improve the air quality in our schools and centres, but due to austerity policies, we have 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 Jean-Francois Roberge and François-Philippe Dubé and public health director Dr. Horacio Arruda.

“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,” said Jacques Landry, FPPE-CSQ President. “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.”

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