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

Just Posted

Fruit farmers in the Okanagan and Creston valleys are in desperate need of cherry harvesters amid COVID-19 work shortages. (Photo: Unsplash/Abigail Miller)
‘Desperate’ need for workers at Okanagan cherry farms

Fruit farmers are worried they’ll have to abandon crops due to COVID-19 work shortages

A tent housing a mobile vaccination clinic. (Interior Health/Contributed)
Over 5K jabbed at Interior Health mobile COVID-19 vaccine clinics

The clinics have made stops in more than 40 communities since launching last week

Provincial Health Officer Dr. Bonnie Henry talks about B.C.’s plan to restart the province during a press conference at Legislature in Victoria, Tuesday, May 25, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito
Interior Health COVID-19 cases falling slower than the rest of B.C.

More than a third of provincial cases announced Thursday came from the Interior

The Greater Vernon Chamber of Commerce will host the Valley Wide Business Expo May 4 at Predator Ridge Resort. (photo submitted)
Golf raffle helps Okanagan families score homes

Habitat for Humanity Okanagan swinging into action this summer with a new raffle

The weekly COVID-19 map for June 6 to 12. (BC CDC)
South Okanagan sees only 5 new cases in last week

The Similkameen Valley went a second week without any new cases

Marco Mendicino, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship during a press conference in Ottawa on Thursday, May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Canada to welcome 45,000 refugees this year, says immigration minister

Canada plans to increase persons admitted from 23,500 to 45,000 and expedite permanent residency applications

Emily Steele holds up a collage of her son, 16-year-old Elijah-Iain Beauregard who was stabbed and killed in June 2019, outside of Kelowna Law Courts on June 18. (Aaron Hemens/Capital News)
Kelowna woman who fatally stabbed Eli Beauregard facing up to 1.5 years of jail time

Her jail sentence would be followed by an additional one to 1.5 years of supervision

Cpl. Scott MacLeod and Police Service Dog Jago. Jago was killed in the line of duty on Thursday, June 17. (RCMP)
Abbotsford police, RCMP grieve 4-year-old service dog killed in line of duty

Jago killed by armed suspect during ‘high-risk’ incident in Alberta

The George Road wildfire near Lytton, B.C., has grown to 250 hectares. (BC Wildfire Service)
B.C. drone sighting halts helicopters fighting 250 hectares of wildfire

‘If a drone collides with firefighting aircraft the consequences could be deadly,’ says BC Wildfire Service

A dose of the Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine is pictured at a vaccination site in Vancouver Thursday, March 11, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
NACI advice to mix vaccines gets varied reaction from AstraZeneca double-dosers

NACI recommends an mRNA vaccine for all Canadians receiving a second dose of a COVID-19 vaccine

A aerial view shows the debris going into Quesnel Lake caused by a tailings pond breach near the town of Likely, B.C., Tuesday, Aug. 5, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Updated tailings code after Mount Polley an improvement: B.C. mines auditor

British Columbia’s chief auditor of mines has found changes to the province’s requirements for tailings storage facilities

Starting in 2022, the Columbia Shuswap Regional District is extending dog control to the entire Electoral Area D. (Stock photo)
Dog control bylaw passes in Shuswap area despite ‘threatening’ emails

CSRD board extending full dog control in Electoral Area D starting next year

A North Vancouver man was arrested Friday and three police officers were injured after a 10-person broke out at English Bay on June 19, 2021. (Youtube/Screen grab)
Man arrested, 3 police injured during 10-person brawl at Vancouver beach

The arrest was captured on video by bystanders, many of whom heckled the officers as they struggled with the handcuffed man

Most Read