B.C. labour board rejects school employers’ compensation appeal

Employers’ association asked for 15 per cent of teachers’ salaries

The B.C. Labour Relations Board (LRB) has dismissed an application by the province’s public school employers seeking compensation for job action B.C. teachers initiated in September.

In the decision, though, the board told both sides it's time to decide which education services are non-essential because the current arrangement isn't moving negotiations along.

"The approach adopted by the parties… simply has not worked," the LRB says in its nine-page ruling. "It has not been balanced or effective in putting pressure on both parties."

In its initial application, the BC Public School Employers Association (BCPSEA) — the bargaining agent for the province’s 60 public school boards — asked that the teachers' federation be fined 15 per cent of teachers' salaries as this would equal the value of the duties teachers have withdrawn. When this application was dismissed on Dec. 8, the BCPSEA asked for a reconsideration. That appeal has been dismissed, as well.

The board reiterated what it concluded in its first ruling: both sides need to come up with a more specific definition of what teachers do that is essential, and what parts of their jobs students can go without.

“If the parties are interested in having effective essential services designations, they will need to readdress the current situation and very likely their fundamental approach to those designations,” the ruling says.

Provincial legislation declares teachers to be an essential service and prohibits them from walking off the job en masse.

The British Columbia Teachers Federation (BCTF) — whose 41,000 members have been without a contract since June 30, 2011 — is pleased with the board’s decision, while the BCPSEA says it will be considering its response.

Bargaining is set to resume on Jan. 4, 2012.

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