While teachers celebrate court decision, government contemplates appeal
While teachers across BC are celebrating Monday’s ruling by the BC Supreme Court — reaffirming that provincial legislation limiting teachers’ bargaining rights is unconstitutional, restoring collective agreement provisions stripped in 2002, and ordering the province to pay $2 million in damages plus court costs — Premier Christy Clark is contemplating an appeal.
Clark said Tuesday her government will likely appeal a B.C. Supreme Court ruling.
Clark told a Kamloops radio station the government’s priority is to make sure the education system is working for students and the court decision doesn’t reflect that priority.
The premier said lawyers are currently studying the complex ruling released Monday.
Meanwhile the BCTF is ecstatic with the decision.
“I’m very happy today,” said BCTF President Jim Iker said on the teacher’s website.
“This is the end of a long and costly legal battle for the teachers of BC. It’s a great day for democracy, and for all working people across BC and Canada.”
Justice Susan Griffin said the government didn’t negotiate with the B.C. Teachers Federation in good faith after a court decision struck down the original legislation in 2011 and ruled the government’s strategy was to provoke a strike by the union in order to get support for imposing legislation on the union.
The decision means the deleted terms in the teachers’ collective agreement, such as class size, have been retroactively restored and can also be the subject of future bargaining.
“Children who were in Kindergarten when those bills were passed are now in Grade 12, and have spent their entire school careers in larger classes with fewer resources,” Iker said.
“For the past 12 years, thousands of children couldn’t get the services they needed because government broke the law.”
The legislation removed provisions that guaranteed smaller classes, support for students with special needs, and services from teacher-librarians, counsellors, and other specialists.
Government then cut hundreds of millions of dollars a year from public education budgets, forcing school boards to cut programs and close more than 200 public schools. More than 3,500 teaching positions, including 1,500 specialist teachers, were also cut.
“If government had respected the Charter, teachers would not have had to spend the past dozen years fighting for our rights,” Iker said.
“Now we expect that government will do everything necessary to demonstrate respect for the court’s ruling and make the situation right. Restore our smaller classes, rehire our specialist colleagues, and help us rebuild the excellent public education system that British Columbians expect for their children.”