The BC Teachers Federation president says the union will be grading each political party, to see how they “measure up.” 

Teri Mooring said COVID-19 safety measures in schools is among the issues the union will be watching closely, ahead of the Oct. 24th provincial election.

“It’s not only just about their response to the pandemic, but it’s also about under-funding in general in schools that is absolutely present,” Mooring said. “And also the recruitment and retention issues that we are being significantly impacted by.”

Meanwhile, as we wrap up the second week of in-class instruction, Mooring says the union has “real health and safety concerns” that need to be addressed.

“We are still looking for a more robust mask policy and we are still looking for a reduction of classroom density so that physical distancing can happen,” Mooring said. “We know these are two of the most important factors in terms of limiting the transmission of the virus and neither of them are present in classrooms.”

Mooring says the union is exploring all of the avenues available.

This includes registering an application to the Labour Relations Branch under Section 88 of the Labour Code.

Mooring hopes that jump starts new talks between the union, employer, and province “to have our issues addressed.”

“Not only do we have concerns around the health and safety measures that we see are still lacking in schools, there’s also no enforcement or oversight mechanisms in place around the health and safety guidelines from the Ministry of Education that are in place,” Mooring said.

The union is also continuing to explore its issues through WorkSafe BC. 

“That is an avenue available to us, especially if a teacher contracts COVID-19 at school,” Mooring said. “That would be a WorkSafe claim.”

She says there are pressing issues with cleanliness and mask enforcement in schools across B.C.

“So currently districts are supposed to be enforcing a policy where students need to be wearing masks in hallways and other high-traffic areas and on buses and we’re really seeing districts balk at that,” Mooring added. “We’re also still seeing a lack of access in some districts to PPE for students and for teachers and these are all of concern to us.”

There has been school exposures across B.C., from Surrey to Castlegar.

Mooring said we’re seeing new exposures every day and “there isn’t a region of the province that is completely safe from this happening, and so we really do see the need for these preventative measures in place in every single community in the province.”