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Teachers who volunteer will be protected from union says minister

Comments by a union official suggesting teachers who volunteer will forced out of the profession are bullying and inappropriate, Education Minister George Abbott said today.

"I am extremely concerned by this pronouncement by the Nanaimo Teachers' Association president," Abbott said. "To have the suggestion that somehow they will be drummed out of the teaching profession because they volunteered, I think is singularly unfortunate and I think is borderline irresponsible."

Abbott was responding to quotes in the Nanaimo Daily News from Derek DeGear, the president of the Nanaimo District Teachers' Association, a local of the British Columbia Teachers' Federation.

Teachers who go against the wishes of the majority of union members and volunteer for things like graduations, sports or extracurricular activities could face discipline, the paper quoted him saying.

"There are several avenues that could be taken if some teachers choose to continue offering voluntary services and that would be up to the BCTF," he said. "The BCTF could decide to publicize the names of the teachers or even withdraw their union membership, which is needed for them to teach."

The Tyee called and emailed DeGear, but could not immediately reach him. Nor did a BCTF spokesperson immediately respond to a request for comment.

Abbott said he hopes DeGear was either misquoted or withdraws the comments. "We will take every step that is legal and appropriate to ensure that those teachers can continue to volunteer without facing any kind of measures that are indicated here by Mr. DeGear's comments," he said.

"Everyone has the right to volunteer in this province," he said, and nobody can tell anyone they may not volunteer.

Abbott said the ministry will work with its legal counsel, the B.C. Public School Employers' Association, the Labour Relations Board and the courts to protect teachers who choose to volunteer.

Andrew MacLeod is The Tyee’s Legislative Bureau Chief in Victoria. Find him on Twitter or reach him here.

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