Application to amend essential services order dismissed by labour board
An effort to force teachers in British Columbia to complete report cards has been dismissed by the BC Labour Relations Board (LRB).
The application made by the BC Public School Employers Association (BCPSEA — the bargaining agent for the province’s 60 public school boards — intended to vary the essential services order so teachers would be forced to file report cards. Earlier this year, the British Columbia Teachers Federation (BCTF) said its members would not complete the reports as part of their ongoing job action.
The decision noted both parties had agreed to the structure of the essential services order which is in place, and the circumstances that led to BCPSEA’s complaint were not unforeseen or unpredictable. The adjudicator ruled the teachers’ job action is in full compliance with the order and there are no grounds to change it.
“BCTF members are providing a range of feedback to students and parents,” LRB associate chair of adjudication Michael Fleming wrote in his decision. “BCPSEA’s initial application arguably suggested that teachers were refusing to inform parents by other methods regarding the progress of students. However, I find BCPSEA has not provided an evidentiary basis for this suggestion.”
The application also aimed to fine the teachers' federation 15 per cent of teachers' salaries, which the BCPSEA said would be equal to the value of the duties teachers have withdrawn. Fleming ruled against this claim.
“(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,” Fleming wrote.
The teachers’ union is pleased with the decision.
“Now the LRB has sent a strong message to trustees,” says BCTF president Susan Lambert. “Instead of attempting to put more pressure on teachers, they should be pressuring government to send BCPSEA back to the table with a new mandate to negotiate a collective agreement that respects teachers and meets the needs of students.”
While no formal statement has been made by the BCPSEA, vice-chair Alan Chell called the ruling a "disappointment" after hearing the decision.
About 41,000 BCTF members have been without a contract since June 30, 2011.