Pregnant teachers face contract discrimination, says union

The teachers’ union in Victoria say a plan to ban pregnant teachers from signing short-term contracts they can't complete is a human rights violation.

The teachers’ union in Victoria says a plan to ban pregnant teachers from signing short-term contracts that they can't complete is a human rights violation.

The school district says substitute teachers are using a loophole to accept temporary contracts and then taking maternity leave, costing the district an extra $250,000 dollars a year.

In one case at Margaret Jenkins Elementary School, one class had six different teachers last year. Principal Barb Hardy says the situation was hard on the students.

"After about teacher four or five, the children were saying, 'Why don't my teachers like me?  I don't want to come to school anymore.'  And they found it difficult to understand why this was happening."

The district now requires substitute teachers to agree they will be available for at least half the contract.

But Benula Larsen, president of the Greater Victoria Teachers' Association, says substitute teachers are awarded temporary contracts based on qualifications and seniority.

She says the association has presented a proposal to the district that would prevent a class from going through a series of substitute teachers.

"If we are concerned about revolving doors in a classroom, there are always jobs,” Larsen said. “There are one-week jobs, two-week jobs, two months jobs. So if someone applies for a six-month job but can only work for two, then they should be able to.”

Larsen says the situation arose in a dozen classrooms last year, which is a small percentage of the close to 20,000 classes in the Greater Victoria School District.

The teachers' association has launched an online petition and plans to file a grievance if a substitute teacher is fired from a temporary contract because she's pregnant.

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