Whitehorse Daily Star

Minister, YTA at odds over teachers’ status

The union representing Yukon teachers is calling on the territorial government to follow its own legislation and allow temporary educators to become permanent after two years of employment.

By Sidney Cohen on June 15, 2017

The union representing Yukon teachers is calling on the territorial government to follow its own legislation and allow temporary educators to become permanent after two years of employment.

Eight teachers have complained about their prolonged temporary employment status, and their grievance has made it to the adjudication phase.

The Yukon Teachers’ Association (YTA), however, says other temporary educators have been barred from joining the action because their non-permanent status means they aren’t entitled to union representation.

“The argument that was made by the Department (of Education) is that the Yukon Teachers’ Association doesn’t represent, can’t represent temporary employees,” YTA president Jill Mason said in an interview Wednesday.

The government’s assertion strips more than 200 temporary educators of their right to YTA representation, said Mason.

She said temporary educators are part of the YTA; indeed, they make up about 25 per cent of the union’s membership.

Temporary educators pay the same percentage of earnings in union dues as permanent educators.

The minister of Education, however, flatly denies the YTA’s claim that the department is blocking the union from representing temporary teachers.

“The YTA has worked representing temporary teachers for many years, and the department has worked to negotiate with YTA over terms and conditions of employment for temporary teachers, and treated them as the representatives of temporary teachers,” Tracy-Anne McPhee told the Star early this afternoon.

“We we have no intention of changing that practice.”

Over the last few years, close to 100 temporary educators have challenged their temporary employment status, said Mason.

For the eight temporary teachers with a case in adjudication, the YTA is asking the adjudicator to rule that temporary educators must become permanent after two consecutive years of employment.

“If we have people that are temporary for more than two years, who have been doing a pretty good job, they’re getting good evaluations and everything, then they should be becoming permanent employees, and they’re not,” said Mason.

According to the Education Labour Relations Act, temporary educators may work for part or all of a school year. As well, their contracts may be renewed for part or all of a second, consecutive school year.

The act says temporary employment may extend beyond two straight years under “exceptional circumstances.”

The conflict seems to boil down to exactly what circumstances are considered “exceptional.”

Mason said Education is using “exceptional circumstances” to describe ordinary staffing issues, such as a vacancy created by a teacher on leave.

“They’re definitely not exceptional circumstances. If you look at the definition of exceptional, they absolutely aren’t,” she said.

McPhee said there are a number of reasons why a temporary teacher who has been employed for more than two years straight may not be given a permanent job.

For one, there might not be a permanent position to put them in.

McPhee gave some other examples of exceptional circumstances: a teacher may have extended his or her sick leave, or there may be a pilot program with time-limited funding that requires the service of a temporary teacher.

The deputy minister decides what is “exceptional,” said McPhee, and a guideline was published in June 2016 to assist with making such determinations.

Of the Yukon’s 531 teachers, 86 are temporary and 13 of them have been temporary for more than two years, said McPhee.

In a statement issued yesterday, the YTA says “The Yukon government is clearly attempting to save money at the expense of temporary educators by denying them permanent status and association representation.”

The statement accused the government of taking “a confrontational and offensive position by trying to have over 200 educators stripped of their bargaining rights and association represention.”

McPhee called the YTA press release “pretty aggressive.”

“We have a premier (Sandy Silver) who is a teacher, we have a minister of education who is a teacher – I have an education degree – YTA questioning our government’s commitment towards education, and our attitude towards teachers is completely unfounded,” she said.

At the time of today’s interview with the Star, McPhee had not yet spoken to Mason.

Comments (6)

Up 11 Down 2

Just Sayin' on Jun 16, 2017 at 3:10 pm

@ Anonymous
No, I have an enormous respect for teachers, however the new education system I have no use for. I requested the statistics, journal articles and studies to determine the validity of this change. However, nothing was provided. “All the information is on our website.” I think they should hire more teachers and remove EA’s there are numerous community schools which have an enormous amount of EA’s and they are not forced to get the proper diploma and/or courses. I have a son and I volunteer in his school and I hear SOME of teachers gripe over the new curriculum and the effects it may have on the potential futures of these children and society in general.

As stated in the paragraph above, I have gone and volunteered in the school and I have seen what they have been taught and NO, it is not anything I was taught, it is far below the level I received. My teachers were awesome, they challenged me to be the best version of me.
I did enjoy the assumption you made that I was against teachers and I had not been in the schools. It amused me. Thank you for that. I think we need more TEACHERS who challenge students, who are so memorable the children can never forget them. IF you are this teacher than I applaud you!

Up 10 Down 7

Anonymous on Jun 15, 2017 at 7:24 pm

Just Sayin" I know you have hated teachers and have no use for the education system by the way you talk about them all the time. I wish you would actually go into a school or talk to educators without a bias. You act like educators are so thrilled about this new curriculum or think they will not continue to teach what they feel needs to be taught to give students the best chances in their lives. You also do not know how many EA's have been fired or laid off. You are invited to come in and actually see what is being taught and how it is much more advanced than what we learned at this age.

Up 18 Down 4

Nile on Jun 15, 2017 at 6:01 pm

@just sayin Cruella McPhee isn't a teacher. She's a lawyer who made $120k working a part time job before she ran for the Libs.

Up 19 Down 18

Nile on Jun 15, 2017 at 3:52 pm

This government will only care about teachers who are from the eastern Canada.

Up 22 Down 6

Politico on Jun 15, 2017 at 3:38 pm

Unfortunately this is how the governments have operated for years. By hiring temporary employees they keep cost down (ie no benefits), keep people on the hook for years dangling to promise of full time employment with the government in front of them and then fireing them at a moments notice. Also the temps don't show up as employees so the stats make the government employee rolls look smaller than they really are.

Up 19 Down 12

Just Sayin' on Jun 15, 2017 at 3:27 pm

Yet, the government feels have EA's is more important than people who are scholarly qualified in our classrooms; it makes complete sense to me.
McPhee is a teacher, yet she has no problem allowing the teachers to now teach a fluffy feel good curriculum, that is why we need more EA's because the curriculum which will be taught to our kids will be complete drivel. Ensure that educated teachers are in the classroom teach fluff to our kids not EA's whom may have not graduated school themselves. I wish I could use my crayons to draw a picture for McPhee to show her the type of future she is creating, perhaps, she would understand it then.

Add your comments or reply via Twitter @whitehorsestar

In order to encourage thoughtful and responsible discussion, website comments will not be visible until a moderator approves them. Please add comments judiciously and refrain from maligning any individual or institution. Read about our user comment and privacy policies.

Your name and email address are required before your comment is posted. Otherwise, your comment will not be posted.