EDITORIAL: BCTF, employer need to settle contract, then focus on students

As in any non-decisive battle between implacable foes, both sides are claiming victory after a Labour Relations board decision last week.

As in any non-decisive battle between implacable foes, both sides are claiming victory after a Labour Relations board decision last week.

LRB vice-chair Ritu Mahil ruled the B.C. Teachers’ Federation didn’t authorize an illegal strike by directing members to refrain from “activities which occur outside of class time/instructional hours and are truly voluntary and extra-curricular.”

The decision, which means teachers’ participation in field trips and coaching duties are not mandatory, means teachers “have the right to withdraw their participation in voluntary extra-curricular activities,” the union notes in a news release.

It’s a win for teachers, says BCTF president Susan Lambert, because it clarifies the distinction between voluntary and non-voluntary extracurricular activities.

Summoning the wisdom of Solomon in the middle of an especially tense B.C. labour relations showdown, Mahil also ruled that teachers have to participate in after-hours things that are part of their work duties.

This includes parent-teacher interviews, district committee meetings, school-based team meetings and Ministry of Education initiatives.

So, it’s also a victory for the B.C. government and the B.C. Public School Employees’ Association, which filed an LRB complaint claiming the union struck illegally.

Of course, if both sides partially won, they also partially lost, but let’s not dwell on the semantics and optics of the public relations spin cycle.

There are more important issues at stake.

One of them is a contract that mediator Charles Jago is still trying to broker while the BCTF is attempting to have him removed from that role.

Another issue, related tightly to the contract, is what to do with a new school year that is only three months away.

The LRB ruling helps, but to avoid the uncertainty and disruption that plagued this school year, both sides must remember what’s best for students.

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