Education Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee says the Yukon Teachers’ Association’s announcement declaring “victory” over eight temporary teachers grievances “came as a surprise.” (Joel Krahn/Yukon News)

Yukon Teachers Association claims ‘victory’ on temp teachers case

‘Obviously, this has been a problem before, or the act wouldn’t exist’

The Yukon Teachers’ Association has declared “victory” after an adjudicator found the Yukon government violated the Education Labour Relations Act by employing eight teachers on temporary contracts for two or more years.

The decision stems from grievances filed by the teachers, represented by the YTA, who said the territorial government had violated the act by not making them permanent employees.

Yukon Teachers Labour Relations Board adjudicator Paul Love sided with them, writing in his July 20 decision that “any teacher who completes two years of service is an indeterminate employee…. Any other interpretation results in an absurdity and makes a mockery of the statutory provisions.”

The eight teachers have since been made permanent employees.

The YTA only issued a press release about the decision earlier this week, President Katherine Mackwood said, because most Yukoners and educators were on summer vacation when the decision was actually delivered.

“Obviously, this has been a problem before, or the act wouldn’t exist,” Mackwood said in a phone interview, adding that while she’s happy about the decision, the problem extends far beyond the eight grievances addressed by Love.

“There’s a lineup of people that we’re going to have to spend a great deal of money on, and so is the government, and that’s our tax-paying money that could be put into the school as opposed (to) into the pockets of lawyers fighting this out in the courtroom,” she said, a situation that could be avoided if the government were to “follow their own rules.”

During the court proceedings, the government had argued that the teachers’ extended temporary statuses were allowed under the act due to the “exceptional circumstances” of their employment situations.

However, Love rejected that.

“The alleged exceptional circumstances that the employer claimed to deny indeterminate status were nothing unusual or extraordinary,” he wrote. “Teachers go on leaves of absence, reduce their hours, leave to take on temporary assignments, provide late notices of vacancies due to retirement or otherwise, and enrolment uncertainty happens annually. These are all part of the regular and normal movement of teachers.”

In another part of the decision, Love wrote that “the issue of the rights of temporary teachers appears to be a matter of ongoing tension between the parties.”

“It should not be,” he wrote, noting “the employer has had very clear direction” from a 2013 ruling on a similar grievance. “The employer seems to want to ignore those findings, despite the fact that the decision was upheld on judicial review…. I hope that the parties will be guided in their relationship by Board decisions, and I note that it is a waste of scarce resources to relitigate issues settled by adjudication.”

In a statement Tuesday, Education Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee said the YTA’s news release about the decision “came as a surprise.”

“We work regularly with the Yukon Teachers’ Association for the purpose of resolving issues and we will continue to work with them for the benefit of all Yukon teachers and students,” McPhee said, adding the department of education met with the YTA as recently as Aug. 30.

“The Department of Education continues to work towards a positive relationship with the YTA.”

Mackwood said the government needs to show that it means it.

“I’m hoping there are not going to be any new grievances,” she said. “This is where the new government can step up, right now, and come to the table.”

Contact Jackie Hong at jackie.hong@yukon-news.com