LRB rules in favour of teachers and employers

NANAIMO – Union can continue directing teachers not to participate in extra-curricular activities.

Teachers are pleased with last week’s Labour Relations Board decision that said the union can continue directing teachers not to participate in extra-curricular activities.

The ruling, released on Friday, stated that activities such as coaching, instructing or supervising student performances, sports teams, clubs or field trips, or attending graduation or awards ceremonies – when these activities are not related to a course or undertaken for marks – are voluntary and extra-curricular.

It also stated that the B.C. Teachers’ Federation must not tell members to withdraw from activities that are required of teachers such as school-based team meetings, parent-teacher interviews, district committee meetings and Education Ministry initiatives.

Teachers also have the right to participate minimally in meetings with principals and other administrators.

The ruling is in response to an application filed by the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association last month asking for a declaration that the BCTF and its members have authorized and are participating in an illegal strike.

In April, teachers voted in favour of a resistance strategy to Bill 22 that includes a withdrawal from voluntary activities.

The employers’ association felt that optional duties such as coaching sports teams and overseeing school clubs are normally performed by teachers at their individual discretion and a direction for all teachers to cease constitutes a strike and it also argued that the BCTF service withdrawal captures duties that are required of teachers, which the LRB agreed with.

Derek DeGear, president of the Nanaimo District Teachers’ Association, said he’s pleased that the LRB has reinforced that teachers have the right to withdraw voluntary services.

“I think it’s a significant victory for teachers because it clarifies the distinction between curricular and extra-curricular,” he said. “It’s going to bode well for volunteer work down the road knowing that teachers can do volunteer work and then step back if need be.”

DeGear said Nanaimo teachers are participating in school-based meetings and parent-teacher interviews, but he has directed members not to participate in district committee meetings and B.C. Education Plan initiatives and the LRB ruling has served to clarify these grey areas.

He said the action plan to resist Bill 22 ends June 30 and teachers will wait and see what the government does in July and August before deciding next moves.

Melanie Joy, BCPSEA board chairwoman, said if districts are in the same position in September with respect to the teacher action plan, the ruling provides some clarification on what can be expected and it ensures consistency.

“It’s just been very inconsistent throughout the province, it’s just been a lot of confusion,” she said, adding that the association had hoped for an earlier decision that would have helped districts more this school year.

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