Major win for BCTF in dispute over class size, compositionJanuary 27, 2014
Teachers scored another major victory Monday in a lengthy legal battle to restore their right to bargain class size and composition.
That right was stripped from the B.C. Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) contract in 2002 by the newly elected Liberal government. Premier Christy Clark, then education minister, said at the time that class size and composition rules made organizing classes difficult. Such decisions should be made by school communities, not parties at a bargaining table, she added.
The union filed a legal action and the two sides began a power struggle that continued for 12 years.
In 2011, the B.C. Supreme Court found that the government had violated teachers’ constitutional rights. Madam Justice Susan Griffin gave the government one year to make things right.
But the Liberals responded with Bill 22, which delayed restoration of those bargaining rights until July 2013. Griffin said Bill 22 was virtually identical to the unconstitutional Bill 28 and for that she penalized the government by awarding the BCTF $2 million in damages.
She also concluded that the government’s approach to contract negotiations in 2012 was intended to provoke a strike. Her decision can be found here, a Vancouver Sun story is here and the BCTF release is here.
Education Minister Peter Fassbender told reporters he was disappointed with the judge’s ruling, and he denied that the Liberals were angling for a strike last year. He said Griffin’s decision is being reviewed by staff.
But BCTF president Jim Iker told a news conference the ruling was a victory for teachers, students and public education. It returns to the BCTF contract a “base level” for class size and composition, which was in place in 2002, he added.
But clearly that can’t happen overnight. Since the passage of Bill 28, the BCTF says schools have lost more than 1,000 specialist teachers (such as special-education teachers, counsellors, teacher-librarians and ESL teachers) and hundreds of classroom teachers due to larger classes.
The BCTF is in the midst of negotiations to replace a contract that expired June 30. While class size and composition has been on the table, both sides have been waiting for the court decision. Iker said he hopes the ruling will now help them move forward.
Patti Bacchus, chairwoman of the Vancouver board of education, told the Vancouver Sun that no one knows the cost of reinstating clauses from the 2002 contract. “We’re in a wait-and-see (period), praying that this doesn’t cost school boards money,” she’s quoted as saying.
Photo credit: BCTF
I am a guest blogger for BCCPAC and the information presented here does not represent in any way the views of the organization.