B.C. school employers appeal labour board ruling

Employers’ association says board didn’t properly interpret role

Public school boards in British Columbia are continuing an effort to force the province’s teachers to pay compensation for job action they initiated in September.

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

In early December, the BC Labour Relations Board (LRB) dismissed an application by the BC Public School Employers Association (BCPSEA) — the bargaining agent for the province’s 60 public school boards — that aimed to fine the teachers' federation 15 per cent of teachers' salaries. The BCPSEA said this would equal the value of the duties teachers have withdrawn.

However, the LRB said there was no evidence teachers were doing any less work and dismissed the application.

“(Teachers) are not performing certain non-essential duties but there is no assertion teachers are working only 85 per cent of their scheduled time while receiving 100 per cent pay,” LRB associate chair of adjudication Michael Fleming wrote in his decision.

On Dec. 13, the BCPSEA filed an appeal of the ruling. Fleming’s interpretation of the LRB's role in a dispute involving an essential service such as education was inaccurate, according to the employers’ bargaining council.

“The original decision stated that the LRB had no role in maintaining an appropriate collective bargaining dynamic between the parties,” the BCPSEA said in a release. “The LRB clearly has the jurisdiction — and must exercise it — to take steps to maintain an appropriate bargaining dynamic so that an escalation of the strike is unnecessary to bring a resolution to the dispute.”

The association said it expects the ruling will be reconsidered by a three-person LRB panel, which won't include the “original decision maker,” Fleming.

The British Columbia Teachers Federation (BCTF) — whose 41,000 members have been without a contract since June 30, 2011 — has not officially commented on the appeal, but BCTF president Susan Lambert has said she is “surprised” by the decision.

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