VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – New battle lines are being drawn in the ongoing BC teachers dispute; this time the employer is trying to force them to take part in extracurricular activities.

The BC Public School Employers’ Association has filed an application with the Labour Relations Board to get the union to stop its protest.

The withdrawal from extracurricular activities is part of the BC Teachers Federation’s response to Victoria’s Education Improvement Act, once known as Bill 22. Some are skeptical this application is really about that, as you can’t make teachers take part in what are, by definition, voluntary activities.

“I think everybody recognizes those types of duties are a matter of choice by individual teachers and they’re free to do it or they’re free to refuse to do it as they see fit,” says Ken Thornicroft, a professor of labour relations at the University of Victoria.

Instead, Thornicroft feels this is about normal parts of their duties that happen to fall outside the classroom.

“You might administer a test during school hours.  Clearly, a teacher is not going to be grading that test until some time after the school day has ended.  That still is part of the teachers duties and must be carried out,” he explains.

Some teachers have been ignoring the union’s decision to stop extra-curricular services, by continuing to coach sport teams and putting on plays.

But BCTF President Susan Lambert insists its employer’s call to lift the ban is a continued attack on teachers. “Just like the motion in the legislation was an attack on the profession. Applications to the LRB are an attack… just like the whole round of bargaining is an attack… just like Bill 22, supposed mediation — which is not mediation.”

Lambert says the BCPSEA is provoking confrontation during what is suppose to be a cooling-off period.

“[It's] inexplicable to me that the employer would have any avenue to force employees to do voluntary work. We do this voluntary work because we love to do it. That’s why teachers volunteer,” she argues.

For its part, the BCPSEA says this isn’t about any one activity, but rather the legality of a coordinated withdrawal from work that used to be done as well as the threats of union discipline for those who don’t withdraw.