Teachers sue government for bargaining rights

The BCTF and the province have come to a tentative negotiated agreement, but their battle over bargaining is far from finished.

The British Columbia Teachers’ Federation and the province have come to a tentative negotiated agreement, but their battle over bargaining is far from finished.

This December 3 to 5, the two sides will meet in court as the union once again seeks the right to bargain class size and composition, as well as services for students with special needs – a case teachers already won in April 2011.

Before a year of failed contract negotiations between the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation and the Liberal government began, the B.C. Supreme Court ruled that the 2001 removal of class size and composition legislation unconstitutional.

The province was given one year to act on the charter violation. Amidst teacher job action in March, the Ministry of Education pushed through Bill 22, the Education Improvement Act, which reinstated legislation found unconstitutional in Supreme Court.

On June 18, the BCTF launched a civil case against the province, this time requesting damages for the loss suffered by teachers as a result of the elimination of a freely bargained collective agreement provisions.

Damages listed by the federation include $352 million in savings over a three-year period through the elimination of some 5,569 teaching positions.

“Because this government has completely failed to deal with the repercussions of last year’s ruling, we have to go back to court,” said BCTF President Susan Lambert in a news release.

“Given the ruling, we believed that we had regained the right to bargain class size, class composition, and the provision of services by specialist teachers, and thereby drive much-needed funding back into our public school system.

“But government refused to recognize the decision and yet another year of cuts has further eroded the quality of services to students.”

Lambert released the statement while in the final leg of successful contract talks with Charles Jago, a mediator appointed to the negotiations as a condition of Bill 22. Jago had until the end of the day today (June 29) to reach a negotiated agreement. Both sides reached a tentative collective agreement late in the day on June 26.

Minister of Education George Abbott declined to comment on the current legal action and stands behind Bill 22, with the belief that it fulfilled the requirements of the original Supreme Court ruling.

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Education confirmed that the ministry expected the issue would return to court.




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