FILE – A empty classroom is pictured at McGee Secondary school in Vancouver, B.C. Friday, Sept. 5, 2014. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward

B.C. teachers file Labour Relations Board application over COVID-19 classroom concerns

The application comes as B.C.’s second week of the new school year comes to a close

The union representing B.C. teachers has filed an application, asking the Labour Relations Board to look into concerns raised about working conditions in classrooms.

In a message to teachers, BC Teachers’ Federation president Teri Mooring said the application was filed Thursday (Sept. 17).

The application relates to section 88 of the Labour Relations Code, which pertains to in-differences within a collective agreement between employers – in this case the B.C. government – and the employees.

The application comes as B.C.’s second week of the new school year comes to a close. Each school district was tasked to create safety guidelines in late August – with general direction from the province – for how it would combat COVID-19 transmission among students and staff.

This includes mask-use policies in hallways and busy areas, physical distancing between desks and other guidelines, slightly varying between each school district.

But since students headed back to class last week, teachers across the province have been voicing their growing concerns about inconsistencies and inadequate implementation of the safety measures.

Mooring said during a news conference Friday that she has heard some schools are rationing masks or not enforcing wearing masks alltogether.

“For a classroom teacher, if my room isn’t cleaned or my administrator won’t give me a shield it doesn’t rise to the level of WorkSafe’s definition of unsafe work.”

Mooring has also said that teachers are “feeling pressured to work in unsafe conditions and are demanding significant changes to ensure they and their students are protected.”

In a seperate news conference, Education Minister Rob Fleming did not directly refute the union’s claims, but downplayed the severity of any concerns.

“In the constant communication I have with people who work in the school system … what you’re seeing around the province is an incredible amount of teamwork and the focus is on the huge task that’s been accomplished,” he said.

He told reporters that the B.C. government has “always anticipated that there would be tweaks and fixes required,” noting B.C. has fared better than other provinces on its return-to-school rollout.


@ashwadhwani
ashley.wadhwani@bpdigital.ca

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