President of the BC Teacher’s Federation (BCTF) Teri Mooring is interviewed outside the Victoria Convention Centre in Victoria, Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019. British Columbia’s Labour Relations Board says it will provide neutral third-party “troubleshooters” to help iron out challenges arising from COVID-19 and related protocols in schools. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

President of the BC Teacher’s Federation (BCTF) Teri Mooring is interviewed outside the Victoria Convention Centre in Victoria, Saturday, Nov. 23, 2019. British Columbia’s Labour Relations Board says it will provide neutral third-party “troubleshooters” to help iron out challenges arising from COVID-19 and related protocols in schools. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito

B.C. labour board to provide neutral ‘troubleshooters’ for COVID-19 school plans

The BC Teachers’ Federation filed an application to the board in September asking for help

British Columbia’s Labour Relations Board says it will provide neutral third-party “troubleshooters” to help iron out challenges arising from COVID-19 protocols in public schools.

The BC Teachers’ Federation filed an application to the board in September asking for help with concerns about unsafe working conditions in schools when the government launched its restart plan.

The union said in an email to members Wednesday that the labour board’s recommendations closely reflect what it was seeking.

“All along, the K-12 restart plan was missing a mechanism to address failures in communication or required health and safety measures,” president Teri Mooring said in the email.

“This new expedited troubleshooting process from a neutral third party will help schools and local unions get changes in a much faster and efficient way.”

The Education Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The union filed the application one week after school started, citing concerns about “inconsistent and inadequate” health and safety precautions in schools.

Part of the issue, the union alleged, was that the provincial government wasn’t willing to spend enough money to ensure proper COVID-19 safety measures were being followed and was instead relying on individual school districts to enforce the guidelines.

In a response released Tuesday, labour board chair Jacquie de Aguayo said that after a review, she found that the issues involve education and health policies that fall beyond the scope of labour relations work.

“Despite this, and to their immense credit, the named parties in the application before me are committed to establishing a problem-solving framework for addressing challenges arising from the impacts of COVID-19 and reducing risks of transmission in the K-12 system,” de Aguayo wrote.

The labour board makes several recommendations including that the Education Ministry appoint a coordinator to communicate regularly and directly with school districts about COVID-19 protocols.

Before making any new changes, the board recommends the government share its reasons with a steering committee that includes teachers, parents, support staff, Indigenous rights holders and others.

The third-party troubleshooter should not replace existing processes for addressing challenges, but the unique context of the pandemic has created new challenges that may not fit easily into existing channels, the board said.

“The role of a troubleshooter is, using an informal and collaborative approach, to fact-find and to make non-binding recommendations,” de Aguayo said.

Troubleshooters will be available beginning Monday to address issues on an “expedited basis,” including evenings and weekends, she said.

The federation celebrated the decision in a tweet on Wednesday.

“This is the enforcement tool we needed to push school districts to comply with health and safety guidelines,” the tweet said.

The board said it will track the nature of disputes referred to troubleshooters and provide reports.

“This ruling is a significant achievement and was possible because of the advocacy, focus and perseverance of our members and our union,” Mooring said in the email to members.

“While it does not address our concerns around the need for a broader mask policy, reduced classroom density to facilitate physical distancing and other preventative measures, it will serve to support our efforts to enforce the health and safety guidelines that are in place.”

Amy Smart, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Want to support local journalism? Make a donation here.

CoronavirusEducation

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
47 new COVID-19 cases in Interior Health region

1,538 total cases, 399 are active, ten in hospital

This picture of Taghum resident Marc Savard was taken in February when he first spoke to the Nelson Star and little was known about the virus that had shut him out of his job in Wuhan, China. Photo: Tyler Harper
VIDEO: Once an outlier, Nelson man’s COVID-19 experience now typical

Savard was living in Wuhan, China, when the pandemic began

Communities like Nakusp are grappling with the challenge of hooking high-speed internet up at individual homes. File photo
‘Last mile’ debate a Gordian knot in Slocan Valley’s fibre-optic cable plans

How do you bring high-speed internet not just to communities, but individual homes?

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Interior Health reports 65 new cases of COVID-19

Province-wide, there are 887 new cases of the virus

Mary Cox and Jack Plant dance in their pyjamas and slippers at the morning pyjama dance during the Rhythm Reelers’ 25 Annual Rally in the Valley Square Dance Festival in Chilliwack on June 4, 2011. Sunday, Nov. 29, 2020 is Square Dancing Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Nov. 29 to Dec. 5

Square Dancing Day, Disability Day and International Ninja Day are all coming up this week

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Help make children’s wishes come true

Black Press Media, BraveFace host mask fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation

114 Canadians were appointed Nov. 27 to the Order of Canada. (Governor General of Canada photo)
Indigenous actor, author, elder, leaders appointed to Order of Canada

Outstanding achievement, community dedication and service recognized

Follow public health recommendations, says Interior Health as COVID-19 cases continue to climb in Revelstoke. (Image courtesy CDC)
Revelstoke positive COVID cases grows to 29

Interior Health announced a cluster in the community on Nov. 26

Screenshot of Pastor James Butler giving a sermon at Free Grace Baptist Church in Chilliwack on Nov. 22, 2020. The church has decided to continue in-person services despite a public health order banning worship services that was issued on Nov. 19, 2020. (YouTube)
2 Lower Mainland churches continue in-person services despite public health orders

Pastors say faith groups are unfairly targeted and that charter rights protect their decisions

A big job: Former forests minister Doug Donaldson stands before a 500-year-old Douglas fir in Saanich to announce preservation of some of B.C.’s oldest trees, July 2019. (B.C. government)
B.C. returning to ‘stand-alone’ forests, rural development ministry

Horgan says Gordon Campbell’s super-ministry doesn’t work

Peter Wilson, left, and Micah Rankin, right, formed the Special Prosecutor team that was tasked with reviewing and litigating charges stemming from the Bountiful investigation. Trevor Crawley photo.
End of Bountiful prosecution wraps up decades of legal battles

Constitutional questions had to be settled before a polygamy prosecution could move forward

2020
Urban wildlife Part VI: The East Kootenay birds of autumn

The work of local photographers printed in the pages of the East Kootenay Advertiser throughout 2020. Part VI.

Alexandre Bissonnette, who pleaded guilty to a mass shooting at a Quebec City mosque, arrives at the courthouse in Quebec City on February 21, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mathieu Belanger - POOL
Court strikes down consecutive life sentences; mosque shooter has prison term cut

The decision was appealed by both the defence and the Crown

Most Read