Sanctions against teachers not as harsh as originally portrayed

Teachers will not have their union memberships suspended for participating in extra-curricular activities.

Teachers will not have their union memberships suspended for continuing to participate in extra-curricular activities.

Last month, teachers voted in favour of a collective strategy to resist Bill 22 that included withdrawing from voluntary activities.

Derek DeGear, president of the Nanaimo District Teachers’ Association, told the News Bulletin last week that teachers who violate the collective action could face punishments ranging from an apology to colleagues and fines, to having their membership suspended – significant because union membership is required to work in B.C. public schools.

But he said this week he was mistaken and that possible sanctions are not as harsh.

“I believed at first your membership can be brought into question,” said DeGear. “It doesn’t mean we’re not going to take it very seriously, though. We will respond and we will be letting members know that going against the decision of the collective is unacceptable.”

He said he didn’t realize the process for violating collective action is different than for a strike violation and in the former, sanctions include publishing the name of the teacher, fines and suspension of the right to hold union office at the local or provincial level.

The union won’t be chasing after teachers, DeGear added, but if another member files a complaint, he cannot ignore it.

“We will talk to people, but we will try to bring them on side,” he said. “I expect members to honour that collective decision making.”

Susan Lambert, president of the B.C. Teachers’ Federation, said she encourages all members to honour the collective action voted upon and those who don’t could face sanctions, but not the ones DeGear mentioned last week.

DeGear’s comments prompted Education Minister George Abbott to declare last week that the province would work with legal counsel, employers, the Labour Relations Board and the courts to ensure that teachers who want to volunteer for activities can do so without facing consequences from the union such as membership suspension.