Four out of five substitute teachers who launched lawsuits against the Yukon’s Department of Education last year alleging unpaid wages have quietly withdrawn their claims in recent months, with the fifth planning on following suit as well.
In separate interviews Jan. 17, three of them said that’s because they’ve finally received what they’ve ultimately wanted all along — for the Yukon government to allow them to join the Yukon Teachers’ Association (YTA).
Until recently, territorial legislation did not allow for substitute teachers, also known as teachers-on-call, to join the YTA, the union which represents a number of other employees in the education system.
However, the YTA’s new collective agreement, which members voted to ratify on Jan. 14, contains a provision for the Yukon government to amend the territory’s Education Labour Relations Act to allow for substitute teachers to join the YTA’s ranks.
Monique Lange, Ellen Lopushinsky and Sandra Gabb withdrew their lawsuits against the education department in October 2018, about three months after filing them.
In an interview, Lange said that was because they had caught word that the bargaining team at that point had already secured a promise that substitute teachers would be allowed into the YTA.
“Somebody told us, ‘You will be part of the union,’ so we withdrew,” she said.
Although she had asked for $1,921.92 in her claim, Lange said she “never had an intention of even getting the money” — filing a lawsuit was just a way of ensuring that the government would pay attention to what she, and other substitute teachers, had to say.
“(The intention was) to prove a point,” she said.
Lopushinsky agreed, saying she filed, and subsequently withdrew, her lawsuit for similar reasons.
“(The Yukon government) allowed us to be part of the YTA, and that was all I asked for in the beginning, was for someone to talk to me,” Lopushinsky, a longtime Yukon teacher who has been substitute-teaching since 2017, told the News.
“I’m just really excited, because there are some people that make their living at subbing … and I think it’s important that they are able to be represented.”
Gabb declined to comment for this story.
Geoffrey Abbott, who had spearheaded efforts to have substitute teachers allowed into the union, withdrew his lawsuit Jan. 21.
Lauren Lester, the last of the five to still have an active claim, said Jan. 17 she will likely withdraw her lawsuit, too.
Although she’s now on a teaching contract, Lester said she still considers the provision in the new collective agreement to be a positive development.
“I’m happy that it all kind of went through and I’m glad to see that substitute teachers are going to be represented now, because it was definitely a big bummer not being a part of that or being represented (by a union),” she said.
Contact Jackie Hong at firstname.lastname@example.org