The Yukon Teachers’ Association (YTA) is taking the Yukon government to court over an alleged plan to open up teaching jobs without offering them to recently or soon-to-be laid-off staff first.
Some of those layoffs are to happen before the end of the current school year, court documents allege.
The union filed a grievance-related petition to the Yukon Supreme Court on March 6.
It’s seeking an injunction, or legal order, to stop the government from posting vacant teaching positions for the 2020-21 school year without first offering them to teachers laid off, or given lay-off notice, during the 2018-19 and 2019-20 school years.
The YTA is alleging the government’s plan would be “breaching” the collective agreement between the union and the government, effective from June 2018 to July 2021 — specifically, clauses protecting recall rights.
The agreement states that employees represented by the YTA who have been laid off may be re-employed without competition, are eligible to be re-employed for a period of two years after being laid off and shall be re-employed in priority to other qualified candidates.
The Yukon government has not yet filed a reply.
In an email, Department of Education spokesperson Susie Ross said that the government “respects the legal and contractual rights of teachers and the Yukon Teachers’ Association,” but as the “case is now before the courts, we will not provide further comment.”
In an affidavit filed with the petition, YTA president Susan Ross said she learned of the Yukon government’s plan during a Feb. 18 meeting with various Yukon government officials, including assistant deputy minister of schools David Wipf and the Department of Education’s Human Resources director Lake Apted.
Ross alleges that during the meeting, Apted told her that the Yukon government intended to post vacant teaching positions for the 2020-21 school year prior to June 8 “for general competition.”
Apted also said the Yukon government “intends to and will provide layoff notices to a number of teachers” prior to the end of the 2019/20 school year, Ross’s affidavit alleges, and “in considering applications for the vacant teaching positions … will not give priority to teachers who have layoff notices.”
Ross said that she wrote a letter to Apted following the meeting outlining how the plan “was a departure from and inconsistent with the practice established by (the Yukon government) for filling indeterminate teacher vacancies in the 2019/2020 school year.”
“(The Yukon government) has not denied or refuted any of the statements I made in my letter to Lake Apted … Furthermore, neither Lake Apted nor anyone else from (the government) has either confirmed or clarified YG’s position as stated in my letter to Lake Apted dated February 18 2020,” the affidavit reads.
Both Ross’s affidavit and the petition claim that the Yukon government posting the teaching jobs for 2020-21 without giving priority to laid-off teachers or teachers who have received lay-off notices would have a number of negative impacts on YTA members and the YTA itself.
Those include, among other things, denying affected members the benefit of the collective agreement and job security; forcing them “to move away from Yukon” if they wish to continue teaching, or to find work in other fields; “undermining” the relationship between affected employees and the YTA; and “undermining the confidence that the members of the YTA have in the YTA, as their bargaining agent.”
In her affidavit, Ross said that she believes the damage that the YTA would suffer to its reputation and relationship with it members “will be irreparable,” and that the damage of members losing job security and being forced to move away or work in another profession “will be both irreparable and immeasurable.”
The petition is set to be heard later this month.
Contact Jackie Hong at firstname.lastname@example.org