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Teachers union goes to court over hiring dispute with Yukon government

The Yukon Teachers' Association filed a petition with the Yukon Supreme Court last week, to stop the government from posting vacant positions that the union says should first be offered to laid off members.

Union says gov't looking to violate collective agreement, and do 'irreparable' damage, gov't yet to respond

The Yukon Teachers' Association (YTA) filed a petition with the Yukon Supreme Court last week, to stop the government from posting vacant positions that the union says should first be offered to its laid off members. (CBC)

Yukon's teachers union has gone to court, alleging the Yukon government's hiring plans violate its collective agreement.

The Yukon Teachers' Association (YTA) filed a petition with the Yukon Supreme Court last week, to stop the government from posting vacant positions that the union says should first be offered to its laid off members.

The petition, dated Mar. 6, says the association was informed last month that the government would post job vacancies for the next school year by June. According to the association, the government will not give priority hiring to recently laid off teachers.

The union says that's a violation of its collective agreement, and threatens to do "irreparable" damage to its reputation.

The petition says the current three-year contract between the government and teachers is in force until June 2021. According to the association, it lays out recall rights that the government is now looking to ignore.

Those rights include being re-employed without competition within two years of being laid off.

In a sworn affidavit filed with the court, association president Susan Ross says the government informed the union that wouldn't happen this year — meaning laid off teachers would face open competition for vacant jobs.

"The damage suffered by YTA to its reputation and to its relations with its members will be irreparable," reads Ross's affidavit.

"The damage suffered by any employee teachers who will be denied job security and may be forced to either work in another profession, losing their seniority, or be forced to move to another province or territory to work as teachers, will be both irreparable and immeasurable."

The Yukon government has not yet filed a response to the petition.

'Toxic environment,' MLA says

Opposition MLA Scott Kent of the Yukon Party raised the dispute in the Legislative Assembly on Wednesday, saying the education minister has created a "toxic environment" between the government and teachers. 

"Why is the minister unable or unwilling to get along with Yukon's teachers?" Kent asked.

"Will she abandon her plans for this new rehiring and layoff policy, and get out of court with our teachers?" 

Education Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee would not say anything about the dispute, saying it's before the courts. 

'They've chosen that this dispute should be dealt with in the courts, and that's the appropriate place,' Yukon Education Minister Tracy-Anne McPhee. (CBC)

"I'm certainly not going to discuss the details of either the government's position or the position being put forward by the Yukon Teachers' Association here in the Legislative Assembly," McPhee said.

"It wouldn't be appropriate to do that, they've chosen that this dispute should be dealt with in the courts, and that's the appropriate place. And we look forward to the result."

McPhee also said Kent has it wrong about the government's relationship with teachers.

"He is certainly entitled to his opinion. I don't share it. Our work with the Yukon Teachers' Association has been productive," McPhee said.

Written by Paul Tukker

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