Prince Edward Island Teachers' Federation

PEITF Newsletter Article by Selina Pellerin

Protecting Personal Days

The PEITF recognizes the importance of the three personal days in our MOA to teachers. While teaching comes with the benefits of the school calendar, it also comes with the disadvantage of lack of flexibility in terms of scheduling and vacation. Fortunately, the three personal days negotiated over the course of several years provide some flexibility to teachers. Therefore,when the Employers try to limit teacher's ability to use these days, the PEITF intervenes forcefully.

PEITF intervention was necessary in two recent situations:

Case 1: In January 2017, a Grade 1 Teacher requested three personal days and two unpaid leave days for the first full week of September to accompany her spouse to a conference overseas. The Teacher had secured a substitute - a retired Grade 3 Teacher known to the school. The Commission scolaire de language française denied the request on the basis of operational requirements. The case proceeded to arbitration. The arbitrator held that the Employer's decision to deny the leave was unreasonable. The arbitrator commented that personal leave requests are mainly at the discretion ofthe teacher. The teacher's request must comply with the MOA, and where it does, it should be granted: "Assuming the teacher can stick­ handle through those restrictions, the leave ought to be granted." The arbitrator further commented that teachers' professional judgement on the question of whether a leave request compromises operation requirements should be given a high level of deference. In this case, the teacher had secured an experienced substitute and had met the students in an orientation session the prior school year. The teacher felt that her leave did not compromise operational requirements. The arbitrator commented that "the grievor was entitled to have her opinions and experience given considerable weight(...). Had the Board (. ..) done so, I believe it would have concluded that the request under 20:03(a) was well­ enough supported that it should have been approved." He added, "I do not believe that it is asking too much of the Board to recognize the importance of such requests from teachers who are themselves professional educators, which requests are not made lightly, and to make the effort to understand how the teacher proposes to meet her obligations." In a rare ruling, the arbitrator awarded the Teacher $1,500 in damages for the lost travel opportunity.

Case 2: A high school teacher requested a personal day for one of the last days of the 2017-2018 school year. The Public Schools Branch denied the request on the basis of "professional responsibilities"; a staff meeting was planned for that day and the school wanted as many staff present as possible to discuss the upcoming school year. Days before the arbitration, the Public Schools Branch conceded that it does not have grounds to deny the leave as the activity was not an operational requirement or professional responsibility listed in the MOA. Both cases are essentially binding on the Public Schools Branch and the Commission scolaire de language française. The MOA states that personal days will not be granted for the purposes of extending a vacation or holiday, PTI, meet the teacher events, their own exams, etc. Going forward, the PEITF expects that the Employers will be much more cautious in denying personal leave requests for situations that are beyond the listed exclusions in the MOA.