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

RCMP pictured at a motor vehicle incident during snowy conditions. (Phil McLachlan - Black Press Media)
Fruitvale woman charged with impaired driving in 2019 crash that killed 2 teens

A 15-year-old boy and 18-year-old woman, both from Fruitvale, died in the crash that sent the vehicle into the river

Masks are now officially mandatory in all City of Campbell River facilities. (Black Press File Photo)
Interior Health reports 49 new COVID-19 cases overnight

302 cases remain active; two in hospital

CMHA players can’t travel outside of their community to play games until at least next month. Photo: File photo
Castlegar Minor Hockey Association pauses game play following new COVID-19 health protocols

The association currently can’t play teams outside of their community

Downtown Castlegar. Photo: Betsy Kline
Appointments made to Castlegar’s housing and advisory committees

Fourteen people have been appointed to serve on the housing committee.

L-R: Kootenay Co-op general manager Ari Derfel, grocery manager Erin Morrison, and security guard Akshay Sharma. The Kootenay Co-op has hired a security company to protect staff from abusive customers who don’t wish to wear masks. Photo: Bill Metcalfe
Mask acceptance varies between different business outlets in Nelson

A small percentage of shoppers have tried flouting the rule, and Kootenay Co-op has hired a security guard.

Provincial health officer Dr. Bonnie Henry updates B.C.’s COVID-19 situation at the B.C. legislature, Nov. 23, 2020. (B.C. government)
B.C. daily COVID-19 cases hits record 941 on Tuesday

Further restrictions on indoor exercise take effect

Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good
Join Black Press Media and Do Some Good

Pay it Forward program supports local businesses in their community giving

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

(Pixabay.com)
Man, 28, warned by Kootenay police to stop asking people to marry him

A woman initially reported the incident to police before they discovered others had been popped the question

Winston Blackmore (left) and James Oler (right) were sentenced on separate charges of polygamy this week in Cranbrook Supreme Court.
No more charges expected in Bountiful investigation, special prosecutor says

Special prosecutor says mandate has ended following review of evidence from Bountiful investigations

(Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Refuse to follow B.C.’s mask mandate? Face a $230 fine

Masks are now required to be worn by all British Columbians, 12 years and older

BC Teachers' Federation President Teri Mooring is asking parents of school-aged children to encourage the wearing of masks when possible in schools. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chad Hipolito)
LETTER: Teachers union encourages culture of mask wearing in B.C. schools

BCTF President Teri Mooring asks parents to talk with children about wearing masks in school

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speak to the media about the COVID-19 virus outside Rideau Cottage in Ottawa, Friday, Nov. 20, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Canada’s inability to manufacture vaccines in-house will delay distribution: Trudeau

First doses of COVID-19 vaccine expected in first few months of 2021, prime minister says

(Pixabay)
All dance studios, other indoor group fitness facilities must close amid updated COVID-19 rules

Prior announcement had said everything except spin, HIIT and hot yoga could remain open

Most Read