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

The school is very proud of these students (pictured, left to right): Halim Demir (holding Grace Valdez’ gold certificate); Lauren McIlwain, Shayleen Mack, Jaymen Schieck, Kyle Doiron, and Finn Carlson (photo submitted)
SAMS students excel in international competition

The SAMS team swept their category this year; all six participants received awards

FILE – A COVID-19 vaccine being prepared. (Olivia Sullivan/Sound Publishing)
B.C. seniors 80 years and older to get COVID vaccine details over next 2 weeks: Henry

Province is expanding vaccine workforce as officials ramp up age-based rollout

The avalanche came down on the highway sometime Sunday evening (Feb. 21) (Dawson photo)
Road to Bella Coola wharf reopens after large avalanche

The road was closed after a large avalanche covered a significant portion of the highway

Jenni Mueller lives near the wharf on the other side of the avalanche. She took this photo and thinks the avalanche happened around 8 p.m. last night (February 21). (Jenni Mueller photo)
Avalanche closes road to wharf at Bella Coola

A day and night of heavy rain resulted in avalanches across the region

Fisheries and Oceans Canada released it's 2021 Pacific Herring Integrated Fisheries Management Plan Feb. 19. (File photo)
Northern herring opportunities kept to a minimum

2021 management plan caps Prince Rupert fishery at 5 per cent

Abbotsford’s Kris Collins turned to TikTok out of boredom when the provincial COVID-19 lockdown began in March 2020. She now has over 23 million followers on the video app. Photo: Submitted
Internet famous: Abbotsford’s Kris Collins is a TikTok comedy queen

Collins has found surprise stardom alone with a phone

Nanaimo children’s author and illustrator Lindsay Ford’s latest book is ‘Science Girl.’ (Photo courtesy Lindsay Ford)
B.C. children’s writer encourages girls to pursue the sciences in new book

Lindsay Ford is holding a virtual launch for latest book, ‘Science Girl’

Pig races at the 145th annual Chilliwack Fair on Aug. 12, 2017. Monday, March 1, 2021 is Pig Day. (Jenna Hauck/ Chilliwack Progress file)
Unofficial holidays: Here’s what people are celebrating for the week of Feb. 28 to March 6

Pig Day, Canadian Bacon Day and Grammar Day are all coming up this week

Staff from the Marine Mammal Rescue Centre, passersby, RCMP and Nanaimo Fire Rescue carried a sick 300-kilogram steller sea lion up the steep bluff at Invermere Beach in north Nanaimo in an attempt to save the animal’s life Thursday. (Photo courtesy Marine Mammal Rescue Centre)
300-kilogram sea lion muscled up from B.C. beach in rescue attempt

Animal dies despite efforts of Nanaimo marine mammal rescue team, emergency personnel and bystanders

Doctors and counsellors warn of an increase in panic attacks, anxiety, depression and suicide ideas between ages 10 to 14, in Campbell River. ( Black Press file photo)
Extended pandemic feeding the anxieties of B.C.’s youth

Parents not sure what to do, urged to reach out for help

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

Kara Sorensen, diagnosed with lung cancer in July, says it’s important for people to view her as healthy and vibrant, rather than sick. (Photo courtesy of Karen Sorensen)
B.C. woman must seek treatment overseas for inoperable lung cancer

Fundraising page launched on Karen Sorensen’s behalf, with a goal of $250,000

Gina Adams as she works on her latest piece titled ‘Undying Love’. (Submitted photo)
‘Toothless’ the kitty inspires B.C. wood carver to break out the chainsaw

Inspired by plight of a toothless cat, Gina Adams offers proceeds from her artwork to help animals

B.C. Finance Minister Selina Robinson presents bill to delay B.C.’s budget as late as April 30, and allow further spending before that, B.C. legislature, Dec. 8, 2020. (Hansard TV)
How big is B.C.’s COVID-19 deficit? We’ll find out April 20

More borrowing expected as pandemic enters second year

Most Read