The Brandon School Division was proven to have violated parts of its contract with the Brandon Teachers’ Association in a recent arbitration dispute.
According to arbitration documents issued Monday and provided to the Sun by the BTA, a panel of three arbitrators decided that the Brandon School Division violated multiple articles of the collective bargaining agreement with teachers.
A grievance was filed by the BTA in late 2018 against the BSD about teachers being required to attend collaborative meetings during their lunch break and preparation time.
Articles violated by the BSD, according to documents, are teachers’ right to have a defined number of preparation hours per week, teachers’ right to have a 60-minute uninterrupted lunch break each day and the division’s agreement to act fairly and in good faith with the collective bargaining agreement.
Requiring teachers to attend collaborative meetings during their prep time "is to add unfairly and unreasonably to their workload," wrote the arbitrators. This is because the current system is likely to force teachers to complete work outside regular working hours, including during their lunch break.
"(We believed) the division had breached a couple of articles the collective agreement, and so we wanted to get some clarity on that," BTA president Cale Dunbar told the Sun on Tuesday. "I think we have been given that clarity."
Dunbar added that he hopes the meetings taking away teachers’ preparation time would stop immediately.
"I hope we can work collaboratively with (the Division) to make a plan that’s workable for both sides," he said.
When the Sun spoke with Dunbar on Tuesday morning, the BTA had not yet reached out to the division to discuss the decision, but he said that communication was going out later in the day.
Arbitrators also found that staff meetings at George Fitton School had become collaborative meetings and the number of meetings had doubled. They ruled that this required teachers to attend more than double the amount of meetings they had to attend outside of the school day, and that this was not fair.
"Holding CTT meetings in common prep time periods, even if only once per cycle, necessarily shifts to some degree to out-of-school hours, work that teachers would do were it not for those meetings," arbitrators wrote.
Hearings between both sides were held at Victoria Inn in July, with a couple of supplementary sessions held in the months that followed. Those testifying included BSD Supt. Marc Casavant, Asst. Supt. Mathew Gustafson, Dunbar, former BTA president Peter Buehler and several teachers and school administrators.
However, teachers were not successful in all of their arguments.
The BTA argued that teachers should have free rein to decide what to do during their preparation time. Arbitrators said that while teachers can be made to do work during prep periods by the division, it must still be preparation-related work.
"... It is up to the Division to decide what work will be done, and when, during work time," the arbitrators wrote.
While arbitrators ruled that Article 27 of the contract regarding uninterrupted lunchtime had been violated, they decided that only one of the two examples provided by the BTA presented sufficient evidence to be proven.
But arbitrators wrote that evidence presented proved that work during teachers’ collaborative meetings fulfilled the requirement of being prep time.
While the BTA requested compensation for teachers affected by the contract breaches, the arbitrators have left it up to the two parties to discuss what form that should take, reserving the right to make a decision in the future should no agreement be made.
BSD board of trustees chair Linda Ross did not want to give a lengthy comment on the ruling on Tuesday, saying that she and the division’s legal team were still going over the lengthy decision.
However, she did express disappointment that the ruling largely went against the division.
"Obviously it’s not the way we hoped it would go," she said.
Ross said she would provide further comment later once she better understood the ruling.
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