Financial penalties sought for teachers’ union

Employers' association seeks penalties for teachers' refusal to do certain work

The B.C. Public School Employers’ Association wants the Labour Relations Board to reconsider its request to charge the teachers’ union for work teachers are refusing to do as part of job action.

Last month, the board denied the employers’ association’s application that would require teachers to prepare and distribute report cards and require the B.C. Teachers’ Federation – upon notice from the association – to pay school districts an amount equal to 15 per cent of teachers’ gross salaries and benefits each month for work that teachers are not performing during job action.

On Tuesday, the employers’ association applied for reconsideration of the financial part of the decision, arguing that an imbalance in the controlled strike environment was created by the union carrying out job action without any financial consequences.

“We have a strike and there’s lots of pressure on the employer, but there’s none on the union,” said Melanie Joy, BCPSEA chairwoman. “We’re trying to use all the tools we possibly can to move [bargaining] forward.”

Justin Green, first vice-president of the Nanaimo District Teachers’ Association, said if the board grants the employers’ association the power to charge the union 15 per cent of teachers’ salaries and benefits, it would cost the BCTF millions of dollars every month.

“It wouldn’t take us long to be out of money,” he said. “If they’re suggesting that report cards and supervision is 15 per cent of our job, I’d like to see them prove that. We’re still working the same hours.”

Green said teachers are fulfilling all requirements set out for job action last summer – teachers are still teaching and assessing students, parents are getting feedback, albeit not in the form of a formal report card, and grades will be provided for those students who need them for graduation, post-secondary and/or scholarship applications.

For all other students, he said teachers are maintaining records for students, but these records will not be sent to administrators.

Meanwhile, the union and employers’ association concluded the 62nd day of bargaining – and the final day of talks before the Christmas break – on Monday.

Green said discussions are not moving anywhere because on top of the employers coming to the table with no extra money, the association also wants to make changes that put more power in the hands of administrators.

“They’re really pushing towards complete managerial rights,” he said. “It’s not just net zero, it’s sub-zero.”

He said one proposal from the employer’s association would take out seniority provisions for filling vacant positions, which is a problem in terms of employment security.

Joy said the two sides are still far apart and the union had refused to discuss anything the employer has proposed.

“There has been some discussions on a couple things, but until the BCTF recognizes and comes to terms with the net zero, we have a long ways to go,” she said.

Bargaining resumes Jan. 4.