October 14, 2020

To: All Members
Re: COVID-19 - Sick Leave Grievance Update 

The NLTA continues to pursue issues related to sick leave on behalf of members. It is your Association’s position that neither the school districts nor government have the right to require NLTA members to use sick leave when directing them to remain out of the workplace if they feel well, fit and able enough to work. Government and the school districts have taken a contrary position, insisting that NLTA members experiencing COVID-19-like symptoms who are directed not to attend work based on results of the Public Health screening questionnaire must access sick leave even if they are otherwise well enough to fulfill their duties.

As has been previously communicated, a policy grievance has been filed and is proceeding to arbitration. A number of members who have been forced to take sick leave in such circumstances have also filed grievances – to date, more than thirty-five individual grievances have been filed, and this number continues to grow. NLTA has reached agreement with government to hold all current and future individual grievances in abeyance pending the outcome of the policy grievance arbitration. Hearing dates have now been confirmed for November 2020, which is quite a quick turnaround for such matters, and we are hopeful that a decision will then be available in early 2021.

What this all means is that the arbitration ruling on the policy grievance will determine the outcome of the individual cases. There is no risk or disadvantage to members in this approach as the Collective Agreement articles, legislative provisions and legal arguments are the same for both the policy and individual grievances. Proceeding first with the policy grievance ensures as timely a process as possible for getting a decision.    

While the NLTA pursues this issue as quickly as possible through the established process, it is important that all NLTA members continue to observe the guidance that follows below.

If a member feels well, fit and able to perform their duties but, upon completing the required COVID-19 screening questionnaire and following the directions therein, determines that they have two or more new or worsening symptoms of those listed and is advised that they cannot attend work, they should:
  • Prior to communicating a decision to remain at home, report their screening results to their school administration and request paid leave (NOT sick leave) as per Clause 18.11 of the Provincial Collective Agreement (Labrador West Clause 29.11), which is payroll leave Code 17.
  • Be advised and aware that school administrators will provide information as directed by the school district, which will be based upon government policy.
  • If paid leave (payroll leave Code 17) is approved, the member should remain at home.
  • If the member is directed to take sick leave (payroll leave Code 1), they should remain at home and contact the NLTA for assistance in filing a grievance.
  • If, while the grievance process is being pursued, the member has exhausted their entitlement to paid sick leave, they should again request paid leave pursuant to Clauses 18.11 and 29.11 of the Provincial and Labrador West Collective Agreements, respectively, and contact the NLTA for assistance.

For members who are not experiencing COVID-19 symptoms (asymptomatic) but are directed not to attend work as a result of being identified as a close contact of a confirmed or probable COVID-19 case, the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) reached between the NLTA and both school districts secures special paid leave pending COVID-19 testing. Should a member who is off on special paid leave develop symptoms, they should refer to the information above.

Some members have expressed concern with getting timely access and clear responses when calling 8-1-1 for advice/direction. Therefore, your Association recommends that you take detailed notes of the call and the information/direction you receive. Record the date and time of the call and ask for the name of the person you speak with. If a “suggestion” is made, request clarification of what the Public Health direction/advice is in your specific circumstances. 
As always, NLTA members seeking advice/assistance on specific matters related to their individual circumstances should contact the Association via mail@nlta.nl.ca.