The Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers’ Association Signs Memorandum of Agreement with the Newfoundland and Labrador School Boards’ Association.
Since March 15, your Association has been engaged with both government and the provincial school boards on a wide range of issues and concerns arising from the COVID-19 public health emergency and the Public Health response measures being put in place for schools. These concerns include, but are not limited to the following:
- Collective agreement rights of NLTA members
- Paid leave for teachers directed not to attend at work
- Job security
- School cleaning protocols
- Substitute teachers
- Workplace accommodations
- Availability of non-medical masks and PPE
- Length of the school day/ instructional day
- Availability of computers and technology for teachers
The NLTA has signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the Newfoundland and Labrador School Boards Association that addresses some of these issues. The MOA is therefore binding on both provincial school districts (NLESD and CSFP). While agreement could not be reached on all outstanding concerns, the MOA does provide greater clarity and security for NLTA members on the matters upon which the parties were able to find common ground. The full MOA can be viewed here, but the main provisions are summarized below.
With regard to paid leave for NLTA members experiencing COVID-19 symptoms, it is your Association’s position that the employer does not have the right to require NLTA members to use sick leave when directing a teacher to remain out of the workplace if the teacher otherwise feels well, fit and able enough to work. The government has confirmed in writing that it is not in agreement with the Association’s position, and a policy grievance will be pursued on this issue. Unlike other public sector groups, the NLTA has not signed on to a “Good Neighbour Agreement” accepting government’s position on sick leave, thereby preserving members’ rights to grieve inappropriate direction on sick leave.
The MOA does secure special paid leave for members not experiencing COVID-19 like symptoms who are directed not to attend work as a result of being identified as a close contact of a confirmed or probable COVID-19 case. In such circumstances, asymptomatic substitute teachers would also have access to special paid leave for all previously contracted work even if they have not yet commenced work in a particular contract(s).
The MOA recognizes the unprecedented nature of the current situation and provides for a degree of flexibility around the usual timelines for consultation with teachers regarding changes to curricular and non-curricular duties. The MOA acknowledges that evolving pandemic circumstances and Public Health responses may necessitate adjustments in teaching assignments and other responsibilities at times and with less notice than would ordinarily be the case. Consultation between teachers and administrators is still required, but teachers should expect a more fluid work reality in the 2020-21 school year.
With respect to Schedules D and E of the Provincial and Labrador West Collective Agreements, respectively, the MOA confirms that adjustments to school operations made in response to Public Health directives/measure cannot lengthen the workday for teachers, the hours of classroom instruction for teachers, or the instructional day for students. Indeed, as referenced in the NLESD plan for return to school, it is anticipated that some of the new measures required (such as staggered student arrivals/departures, lunches, etc.) may lead to a reduction in instructional time during the 2020-21 school year.
The MOA clearly articulates limits on what can be expected of teachers when it comes to the cleaning of equipment/devices or school spaces, and provides that any necessary PPE will be made available by the employer.
In recognition of the additional workload required of principals in operationalizing government and school district re-entry plans in their schools, the MOA provides for three days of paid “leave in lieu” for school principals. It was the Association’s position that this leave should be provided for all school administrators but unfortunately agreement on this could not be reached.
The MOA allows for contracted (permanent or term) teaching and learning assistants (TLAs) who hold a level IV teaching certificate or higher to be temporarily employed in a substitute or term/replacement teaching position when no regular substitute teachers are available, and as long as every effort is made to replace them in their TLA position.
In the event of a future suspension of in-school classes, the MOA ensures that teachers will be provided with the necessary technology, devices and/or PL, and will be reimbursed for pre-approved costs of any needed enhancements to home internet services if there is a return to work from home protocols.
The MOA also provides for potential hiring of substitute teachers in full-time, term contracts for certain schools or groups of schools, as well as an agreement from the school districts to bring forward the issue of financial support for substitute teachers should there be a further period(s) of suspension of in-school classes.
Members who have specific questions regarding the MOA and/or its impact on their individual circumstances are advised to contact an NLTA Administrative Officer in Programs and Services via email@example.com.