Legal News

no extra pay for health & safety committee

On September 6, 2002 a Review Decision was issued by the Workers’ Compensation Board concerning an application by a Vancouver School Board teacher alleging discrimination and a failure to pay wages.

The teacher was a member of the Health and Safety Joint Committee at his school and claimed that the failure of the school board to pay an amount in addition to his annual salary for time spent on the committee was a contrary to the Workers’ Compensation Act. He also claimed that he had been discriminated against because an employee who was a member of a different bargaining unit had received overtime pay for performing Joint Committee functions.

The Workers’ Compensation Board found that the teacher had not been denied wages for the performance of Joint Committee member duties. The Board stated that health and safety is a core duty for all workers including teachers in that these duties might be expected to be fulfilled at any time of the day. The Board also stated that it was generally reasonable for the Employer to expect these duties to be performed as part of the duties for which the teacher receives his annual salary. The purpose of Act is to ensure that activities are compensated for in the same way as normal work activities, not to provide an additional incentive payment.

The WCB noted that “lack of clarity in collective agreements as to what non-instructional duties are part of a teacher’s employment seems to be common.” It accepted what it termed the “general doctrine” from the Supreme Court of Canada decision in Winnipeg School Teachers’ Association v. Winnipegb School Division No. 1 and relied upon the following passage from that decision:

“Almost any contract of service or collective agreement which envisages sevice, especially in a professional enterprise, can be frustrated by insistence on ‘work to rule’ if it be the case that nothing that has not been expressed can be asked of the employee. Before such a position can be taken, I would expect that an express provision to that effect would be included in the contract or in the collective agreement. Contract relations of the kind in existence here must surely be governed by standards of reasonableness in assessing the degree to which an employer or a supervisor may call for the performance of duties which are not expressly spelled out. They must be related to the enterprise and be seen as fair to the employee and in furtherance of the principal duties to which he is expressly committed.”

Accordingly, in the absence of a clear and specific term of the collective agreement stating that acting as a Joint Committee member was outside the scope of the teacher’s normal duties, the teacher was not entitled to additional payment or time off in lieu of payment for performing those functions.

The Board also dismissed the claim alleging discriminatory action. The employer was paying the applicant teachers all that they were entitled to under the contract of employment or the collective agreement and therefore, it was immaterial that different benefits were provided to other employees under their collective agreements.

This decision directly contradicts the position taken by the BC Teachers’ Federation that the work for which teachers are paid is confined to duties that are expressly set out in legislation and the collective agreement. It therefore has broad positive implications for school boards.

The employer was represented by Harris & Company counsel.