September 25, 2023

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BC Labor Board to provide neutral ‘troubleshooters’ for COVID-19 school plans – BC News

BC Labor Board to provide neutral 'troubleshooters' for COVID-19 school plans - BC News

The British Columbia Labor Relations Board has said it will provide neutral third-party “troubleshooters” to address challenges arising from the COVID-19 protocols in public schools.

The BC Teachers Federation filed an application with the board in September seeking to raise concerns about unsafe working conditions in schools when the government launched its restart start plan.

The union said in an email to members on Wednesday that the Labor Board’s recommendations would reflect what it wanted.

“Above all, the K-12 restructuring plan does not address communications or failures in necessary health and safety measures,” President Terry Mooring said in an email.

“This new rapid troubleshooting process from a neutral third party will help schools and local communities get changes very quickly and efficiently.”

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

The union filed the application a week after school opened, raising concerns about “inconsistent and inadequate” health and safety precautions in schools.

The union alleges that the local government is not willing to spend enough money to ensure that proper COVID-19 security measures are followed and instead relies on individual school districts to enforce the guidelines.

In a response released on Tuesday, Labor Board chairwoman Jacqui de Aguayo said that after the review, she found that education and health policies were beyond the scope of labor relations.

“Despite this, and to their enormous credit, the parties named in my previous application are committed to establishing a problem – solving framework to address the challenges arising from the effects of COVID – 19 and to reduce transmission risks in the K – 12 system,” de Aguio wrote.

The Labor Board makes a number of recommendations regarding COVID-19 protocols, including the appointment of a coordinator by the Ministry of Education to communicate regularly and directly with school districts.

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

Third-party troubleshooter challenges should not replace existing processes, but the unique context of the epidemic has created new challenges that do not easily fit into existing channels.

“The role of the troubleshooter is to use an informal and collaborative approach, to find out the facts and make recommendations that are not adhered to,” de Aguayo said.

Troubleshooters will be available from Monday to resolve issues “on a speedy basis”, including in the evenings and on weekends, she said.

The federation celebrated the decision in a tweet on Wednesday.

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

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

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“This verdict is a significant victory and made possible by the advocacy, vision and perseverance of our members and our union,” Mooring said in an email to members.

“While it does not address our concerns about reducing classroom density to facilitate a broader mask approach, physical distance and other preventive measures, it will serve to support our efforts to implement health and safety guidelines.”