Teachers, employer both pleased with LRB decision

An LRB decision regarding teachers' right to withdraw from activities outside class time pleased teachers — and their employer.

A Labour Relations Board (LRB) decision regarding teachers’ right to withdraw from activities outside of class time has pleased teachers — and their employer.

LRB vice-chair Ritu Mahil announced Friday the BC. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) is allowed to direct its members to refrain from “truly voluntary and extracurricular” activities outside of class.

“These include coaching, instructing or supervising student performances, sports teams, clubs or field trips, or attending graduation or awards ceremonies, where those activities are not related to a course undertaken for marks,” said Mahil in her decision.

Teachers withdrew from extracurricular activities this spring as a way to protest Bill 22 legally because the Act made striking illegal.

According to the LRB decision, the union can also direct teachers to “minimally participate” in meetings with administrative officers. However, the BCTF cannot allow or direct members to withdraw from activities out of work hours that are considered part of their work duties, according to Mahil’s decision.

“These include participating in School Based Team meetings, Individual Education Program meetings, parent-teacher interview meetings, district committee meetings, and BC Ministry of Education initiatives such as Ready Set Go and kindergarten orientation,” said Mahil in her decision. “The Union is directed to cease and desist from declaring or authorizing an unlawful strike in this manner.”

In a news release, the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA) said it’s pleased with the ruling.

“We are pleased that the LRB has found in favour of the BCPSEA application and declared that the BCTF engaged in an illegal strike by directing its members to withdraw from those activities that are part of a teacher’s normal work,” wrote BCPSEA’s Deborah Stewart.

The release went on to say the focus of the application was not to compel teachers to perform voluntary activities: “The focus of our application was on those activities being withdrawn which are in no way voluntary and are duties and activities regularly and ordinarily performed by teachers as part of their normal work day, whether or not they occur outside of instructional hours.”

However, Comox District Teachers’ Association president Steve Stanley pointed out the BCPSEA had included voluntary activities in its application to the LRB and he’s happy with the LRB’s decision.

“The ruling made perfect sense to us because how could it be otherwise? Volunteer activities are voluntary,” said Stanley. “It seems frivolous to us for BCPSEA to go the LRB around this issue because how can things that are voluntary be not voluntary? It just seems outrageous. It was a concern for us to take it there in the first place and we’re glad that it was reinforced.”

Government-appointed mediator Charles Jago has been meeting with the BCTF and the BCPSEA to see if the two sides can negotiate a contract, and is expected to report his findings to government by the end of June. Education Minister George Abbott has said government will impose a contract if an agreement is not reached before the start of the next school year.

Negotiations have been ongoing for over a year.