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The following misinformation in a recent CBC news article has been noted with a response:

“The latest collective agreement reached by the Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers’ Association will see candidates automatically offered permanent jobs teaching subjects in which they have little or no training, according to numerous people familiar with the deal consulted by CBC/Radio-Canada.”

The CBC does not name the sources that it consulted with, however, the statement that teachers with little or no training would be given priority in hiring is incorrect.

“Under the new collective agreement, ratified in March, seniority is now the determining factor in all permanent teacher hiring positions.”

This statement is incorrect. Permanent teachers can expect to have their seniority valued when they apply for permanent positions. This is how transfers should occur in a unionized environment. However as permanent teachers are awarded transfers, the fall-out permanent positions get posted and permanent positions will eventually be filled by non-permanent teachers without consideration of seniority. To be clear, if the school district begins with 135 permanent positions to be filled, once all transfer requests from permanent teachers have been honoured there should still be 135 permanent positions that will be awarded to replacement/substitute or new teachers. This new provision should have no net effect on the number of vacant permanent positions available to new teachers.

“Noel Hurley, an education professor at Memorial University, says that since the new collective agreement was inked if a permanent teacher applies for a new permanent teaching position and responds to the “minimum requirements” set by the deal, they automatically get the job.”

“The danger is that you can now no longer hire somebody based on them being the most qualified and most excellent person for this position,” Hurley said. “And it encourages people to just punch the clock if you like.”

“I hear a lot from teachers, and it’s best to say that there’s not much happiness either with principals or with teachers with this new collective agreement clause… Principals have stated that it ties their hands completely. They’re really upset about it.”

Professor Hurley hasn’t been active in school district operations for 15 years and it is regrettable that he would disrespect the entire profession by stating that senior teachers are just “punching a clock”. Obviously, neither Professor Hurley nor the reporter chose to speak with or report from the many teachers who have felt overlooked when seeking transfers after giving ten, twenty or more years of exceptional service to their school district.

“According to Hurley, if a teacher can demonstrate they’ve taught a given subject before, they would likely be considered competent enough to qualify for a position in that subject area, even if they’d never received formal university-level training in the field.”

Professor Hurley should be aware that there have been numerous arbitration decisions over the years that have distinguished the concepts of qualifications and competency when it comes to the assessment of training and experience in hiring. His statement is incorrect.

“But final hiring decisions were not so uniquely based on time served. For example, a permanent teacher with three years’ experience could still be chosen for a job even if a teacher with 25 years’ experience also applied.”

This statement is indeed correct and demonstrates the reason why so many teachers wanted to see greater transparency in the hiring process, with consideration given to seniority. Imagine seeking a transfer after 25 years of great service to students and feeling that you were overlooked without adequate explanation.

While the CBC reporter did request and was granted an interview, there was no follow-up to check facts prior to publishing this story. It is unfortunate that the CBC feels it is appropriate to make comments on the competence, suitability and qualifications of senior teachers when their own reporter seems prepared to violate the foundational tenants of good journalism. According to the Canadian Association of Journalists Ethical Guidelines, accuracy is the moral imperative of journalists and news organizations and should not be compromised. It was disappointing to see the CBC rely upon an education student with no experience in collective agreement interpretation as a source. As pointed out previously, the new language in the collective agreement in no way impacts the number of permanent positions that will be available for new teachers. Neither does it require the school districts to hire teachers who are unqualified or unsuitable as per the collective agreement. It simply provides greater transparency to the transfer process.