Pembina Trails School Division lays off more than 500 workers

Hundreds of people working for the Pembina Trails School Division were laid off on Friday, in an effort to cut costs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many positions are part-time, division says; layoffs also happening in other regions

Pembina Trails School Division is laying off more than 500 employees. (CBC News)

Hundreds of people working for the Pembina Trails School Division were laid off on Friday, in an effort to cut costs during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The temporary layoffs affect 472 educational assistants — which includes lunch and breakfast program supervisors and crossing guards — as well as 24 bus drivers, 32 librarians and 36 staff who support programs such as the walking school bus.

The exact number of affected employees is hard to determine because some roles overlap, a school division spokesperson told CBC News, but it's more than 500 people, many of whom are part-time workers.

"With no students in our classrooms and on our buses, we are moving forward with temporary layoffs of valued employees such as educational assistants, bus drivers, library technicians and lunch supervisors," the school division said in a statement.

"These staff members have dedicated their time and energy to the daily operation and success of our division. We value their work, and look forward to welcoming everyone back when our students return."

Other school divisions are also facing layoffs or job changes. Starting April 30, Seven Oaks School Division will lay off 47 short-term and substitute education assistants, while 240 permanent education assistants will continue to work.

Bus drivers for the division had to choose between getting laid off or doing custodial work; 27 drivers will be laid off as of May 13 and 21 drivers will become custodians.

The union that represents educational assistants and custodial staff at Hanover School Division said the division is laying off roughly 85 per cent of its EAs.

Geoff Dueck Thiessen, regional director with the Christian Labour Association of Canada, told CBC News in an email that the exact numbers haven't been nailed down, but he believed "the number remaining is going to land around 33 of the roughly 220 permanent and term EAs."

In a news release, Dueck Thiessen said the union argued against the layoffs.

"Our position, which we made known to HSD, is that we wanted our members to be kept on the payroll and working. HSD has explored this and has decided that it's not the best option," he wrote.

"We appreciate that HSD worked with us on the details, and we were able to have some influence on decisions and communication of those decisions to our members."

CBC News also reached out to River East Transcona School Division to inquire about possible layoffs, and they refused to comment.

When contacted on Friday, spokespeople for the Louis Riel, St. James-Assiniboia and Winnipeg school divisions said none of their staff had been laid off.

With files from Marina von Stackelberg and Nicholas Frew


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