Following a grievance arbitration concluded in September, 2019, the Brandon Teachers’ Association (BTA) has won a precedent-setting victory regarding duly-bargained preparation time.
The Brandon School Division had encroached on preparation time enshrined in their teachers’ Collective Agreement for the purpose of introducing American company Solution Tree’s Response to Intervention program. While the value of the program was not in question—the Division’s usurping of teachers’ prep time, duty free lunches, and the repurposing of staff meetings for the training certainly were.
“It was essential that BTA grieve what was a clear erosion of time negotiated in good faith, for the protection of teachers and the benefit of students,” says Diane Beresford, MTS staff officer and resource to BTA throughout the process. “To ignore it would be to invite further incursions, with implications for every teacher in Manitoba.”
The BTA produced nine witnesses during the hearings, most of whom were teachers who spoke compellingly about the effect on both their work and home life of having roughly 20 per cent of their prep time, lunch period, or personal time appropriated.
Essentially, these practices added an additional hour of evening/weekend work per week to a teacher’s plate. Coaching, field trips, supervision of school clubs, parent-teacher meetings, marking, report writing and other activities are often conducted before and after school hours, time teachers already absorb.
In arguing its case, the Division took two positions: One, quickly disproved, was that these meetings were voluntary. Two, that they had the right to assign the work during prep periods or staff meetings.
The Arbitration Board concluded that, while teacher collaboration is a suitable use of preparation time, these mandated meetings were not fair and reasonable under Article 1 – Obligation to Act Fairly, and violated the prep time provisions under Article 32, as well as the duty-free lunch provisions under Article 27.
Under the terms of the award, the Division must stop the grieved practice immediately and negotiate compensation for time already appropriated. The arbitration board directed the BTA and the Division to resolve the issue of compensation for the breaches and reserved jurisdiction if an agreement cannot be reached.
BTA president Cale Dunbar is pleased with the outcome of the arbitration, which required extensive preparation and collaboration with MTS. “Our case was clearly presented and thoughtfully argued. We look forward to working cooperatively with the Division to address the terms of the Award on behalf of our members.”
Beresford adds that the Award’s implications impact not only Brandon members, but all those across the province. “Teachers can no longer be expected simply to absorb more and more duties. This award makes that clear.”