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Katherine Mackwood

Government’s conduct ‘disgraceful’: YTA

Katherine Mackwood, the president of the Yukon Teachers Association (YTA),

By Stephanie Waddell on September 13, 2017

Katherine Mackwood, the president of the Yukon Teachers Association (YTA), says a ruling by adjudicator Paul Love is extremely important for education in the territory.

Love ruled that eight teachers in the territory should have been given permanent positions rather than continuing to be kept in temporary positions.

The teachers have since been given permanent status.

“This issue is very important,” Mackwood said in an interview Tuesday.

It could impact a number of other similar cases that are still being looked at, added Mackwood, who succeeded Jill Mason as the YTA’s president earlier this year. Mackwood also served as president previously.

In his decision, Love rejected the territory’s claim of “exceptional circumstances” being responsible for the continued temporary hirings. He wrote the government “makes a mockery of the statutory provisions” of the Education Labour Relations Act regarding those circumstances.

Mackwood noted that a temporary employee is required to gain permanent status after two years, except in cases of “exceptional circumstances”.

She argued, though, that the Yukon government was using parental leaves and other standard leaves as an “exceptional circumstance”.

She noted those are standard and don’t constitute anything out of the ordinary.

As Love pointed out in his 38-page decision, the territory had violated section 109 of the Education Labour Relations Act (ERLA), which aims to ensure the employer does not have: “a pool of perpetual contractors to address its ordinary staffing needs.

“Holding an employee in a state of perpetual limbo to convenience the employer in a state of perpetual limbo to convenience the employer in its annual school staffing process is unfair.”

As Mackwood pointed out, keeping teachers in temporary positions year after year means those professionals are without benefits during the summer months.

Some can even have difficulty with things like obtaining a mortgage because of that temporary status.

“It affects the dynamics and economy of the Yukon,” she said, arguing it was a move by the government aimed at saving money.

“They knowingly broke the law at these eight teachers’ expense – that is disgraceful, and not in line with this government’s claim of open, honest, and transparent behaviour,” Mackwood said.

“It is even more offensive because an earlier adjudication came to similar conclusions in a 2013 decision that was then upheld in a judicial review.

“It’s time for the Yukon government to admit its mistakes and obey the law by creating permanent teaching positions for those who have been employed for more than two years and continuing to do so in the future.”

The union emphasized it will continue to fight further cases like this that are also impacting educational assistants and language teachers.

“The Yukon government is not above the law. This is not over,” Mackwood said, highlighting the other cases that are still coming forward.

“We have many other members still litigating and who are in the same situation as these eight grievors who won their grievances.”

While Mackwood made it clear the union will keep up the fight, she also said she is “extremely hopeful” for an improved relationship with the nine-month-old Liberal government.

She noted that it’s still relatively early in the current government’s regime after last year’s territorial election, but initial “overtures” have been positive.

In a statement released Tuesday, Education Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee said the government works with the YTA to resolve issues “and we will continue to work with them for the benefit of all Yukon teachers and students.

“We are regularly at the table with the YTA for the purpose of resolving issues and discussing concerns. In fact, we met with them as recently as August 30, 2017, and we will continue to work with them for the benefit of all Yukon teachers,” McPhee said.

At that meeting, the government confirmed it will comply with Love’s decision.

“The issue of temporary and permanent teachers has been discussed by the Department of Education, the Public Service Commission and the YTA on a regular basis since 2013. The Department of Education continues to work towards a positive relationship with the YTA.”

Meanwhile, the official Opposition Yukon Party also stated its strong support for teachers in the territory.

“While in government (from 2002 to 2016), the Yukon Party made significant investments to support our teachers and students and improve learning outcomes across the territory,” the party noted in a statement.

It then went on to highlight initiatives for teachers that began under Yukon Party governments.

Those include:

• the establishment of the summer academy annual conference before school starts every year;

• the inclusion of additional professional development and instructional minutes for teachers;

• a new orientation program to learn about Yukon First Nation cultures and traditions through the First Nations Programs and Partnerships Unit;

• the participation of school administrators to participate in training opportunities, including how to introduce and teach students about residential schools;

• training programs through the Curriculum Redesign Learning Networks to allow teachers to explore modern instructional approaches; and

• improved training for educators in non-violent crisis intervention, applied suicide intervention and restorative practices.

– With files from Emily Blake

Comments (7)

Up 1 Down 0

Joel on Sep 19, 2017 at 3:39 pm

@ Dan Davidson

Except that is not true. Medical, dental and vision benefits are available all year. Pension is based on a full year. Pay is not based hourly but spread across a yearly salary calculation. I think there is still a cash payout for the summer months at the end of the school year.

Not really sure what point you are trying to make but, but I have heard this weird statement from teachers before....

YTA also needs a less combative president.

Up 4 Down 6

Dan Davidson on Sep 18, 2017 at 4:31 pm

Teachers don't get benefits or pay when they are not working (stat holidays, summer, etc). Their pay, and benefits, are based on their actual working days (although the imaginary 37.5 hours a week is considerably less than the actual time it takes to do the job) but they are spread out over the entire year in terms of how the cheques are issued. This works to the government's advantage in terms of cash flow.

Up 7 Down 2

Salar on Sep 16, 2017 at 7:10 pm

PD Day....less is more

Up 14 Down 3

Just Say'in on Sep 16, 2017 at 2:13 pm

@PD Day?

Well thought and written, however maybe they should just teach school. We do not need more social engineering. Teachers do not rule the world, don't overcomplicate it.

Up 17 Down 17

PD Day? on Sep 15, 2017 at 10:44 pm

Like most press related items, the YTA is a bloated example of a lazy layer, within government......that cries in the public domain. Try again...

As for the Whitehorse Star, report the news don't antagonize everyone that buys your paper. Talk about school nutrition, talk about students that graduate and post secondary alternatives, and employment prospects. Talk about trades, scholarships, community colleges, grants, & university. Talk about careers in the Coast Guard, reserves and the military. Talk about art programs and drama that impacts the creative minds of our youth. Talk about investment and the impact that investment will have done the road with the children of our community. Focus on teacher that are innovators, write those stories.

As a parent who has watched teachers, former teachers and coaches disintegrate the institution of education, this bothers the heck out of me.
Teachers have become entitled with more days off than days on. Between the teachers association the union, and the last government, student outcomes visa vie..... educating young souls is the last agenda item.

As for our fearless Union President, who has been invisible; roll your sleeves up, be in your office, and answer your phone. It's always nice to try and get hold of you, or you staff...on a Friday afternoon. Conferences don't get you re-elected Steve. Didn't hear much from your office about the recent debacle up at the jail. Can you provide some insight about how your membership up there might treat inmates with more dignity and respect.

If education is so important YTA, then after you read/review the aforementioned list, you might want to include what children, students, and parents get?
In plan language, YTA....what will you offer students in the way of a curriculum that will provide them with more than a piece of paper at the end of the tunnel. It's clear what your needs are, but if not for the students you would be unemployed.

Platitudes and a piece of old YP parchment won't inspire students, nor attract new teachers who might bring something to the table. Maybe a two week paid symposium with speakers from down south will rally the troops. Or maybe, the solution lies with the educators?!

As for more positions and TA's I am all for the them providing these positions and address:
Collaboration between French and the English speaking schools,
New school locations aren't all in Riverdale
FN language, culture and elders are welcomed into the curriculum
Methodology that includes solutions for disabled, cognitively impaired children with one to one support.
A Education model that breaks barriers and is not the laughing stock of other jurisdictions.
A concerted educational program that puts students first.
More investment/regulations and certification at the pre-school level. No more mom and pop shops. This would also include child tax credits at the daycare level. And consideration at either the municipal or territory level run Daycare facilities for fixed income parents.
A physical fitness and; on the land component to provide mind/body/spirit balance for students.

We can do so much more, it just takes passion, determine and creativity. It takes all stakeholders to play their part.
A nutrition Program that provides all students with a balanced diet and daily caloric intake to ensure they have the energy to get thru a full day of schooling.
A moderate amount of homework.
Summer programming that allows single parents, to work and provide children with alternatives to "camps".

Innovation starts here folks.....perhaps the YTA can come off their high perch and show the impact of what they do?

Up 47 Down 2

Tom Stevens on Sep 14, 2017 at 8:13 am

YTG and specifically the Dept. of Education screwed these people around royally for years while looking after the needs of significant others of upper management that had tagged along to be part of the gravy train. The elite would have their people slide into permanent contracts and preferred jobs while others were denied or cast aside. The Dept.of Education is a recycling pool of the same people from the past who just keep reappearing and do nothing to improve or enhance the education of Yukon kids.

Up 27 Down 10

common sense on Sep 14, 2017 at 4:17 am

I work in the private sector and I don't get benefits when I am not working.

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