Ministry of Education appeals teachers' ruling

Christine Wood/Staff Writer / Staff writer
February 7, 2014 01:00 AM

Education Minister Peter Fassbender announced this week that the provincial government is appealing the B.C. Supreme Court ruling that restores teachers' collective bargaining rights, which were originally stripped away in 2002.

The Ministry of Education is appealing last week's B.C. Supreme Court ruling that restores teachers' collective bargaining rights, which were originally stripped away in 2002.

Among those rights restored in court is the right of teachers to bargain class size and composition.

Madam Justice F. Griffin decided the case on Jan. 27 and her ruling came with a stipulation that $2 million in compensation be paid to teachers by the provincial government.

Teachers celebrated the ruling, but government said it wanted to study the ruling in more detail to determine the possible implications.

This week, the provincial government announced its plan to appeal.

Education Minister Peter Fassbender said in a press conference Feb. 4 that "the judgment centred on the union's interests, not students' needs."

He went on to say the B.C. Teachers' Federation (BCTF) has a job to defend its members, which it has done "with passion and vigor" but that it is government's "responsibility to balance those interests against the best interests of students, their families and the 4.6 million British Columbians who already invest nearly $5 billion into K-12 education every year."

"That is what our government has always done and will continue to do and that is why we will appeal Justice Griffin's decision," he said.

Fassbender noted the legal arguments for government's appeal would be "released in the coming weeks" with a detailed reasoning from the Ministry of Justice.

"But in practical terms the judgment is completely unaffordable for taxpayers," Fassbender said.

"It would create huge disruptions in our schools and most importantly it will prevent districts from providing the right mix of supports that our students actually need."

Shortly after Fassbender's remarks BCTF president Jim Iker issued a statement saying "today, we learned Premier Clark and Education Minister Peter Fassbender are not serious about stability in B.C.'s education system. By announcing their intent to appeal B.C. teachers' important and historic court victory, Christy Clark's government has shown they think they are above the law," Iker said.

He accused the government of negotiating in "bad faith" and said teachers cannot trust Fassbender or Clark "as much as I want to."

"By trying to hold on to Bill 28, which illegally stripped teachers' working conditions, Christy Clark is saying no to smaller classes, no to increased support for students with special needs, and no to extra help for all kids," Iker said. "It's sad, disappointing, but entirely predictable from a government that cannot be trusted to put education before politics."

School districts around the province are now waiting to see what will come of the appeal and further discussions between the BCTF and the government.

"It really is a wait and see for all of us right now," superintendent of School District No. 46 Patrick Bocking said. "We're really not sure what's happening next, to be honest. We're aware of the language that the Supreme Court decision refers to in terms of class organization and there's a lot of different elements to that so we will definitely be working within our own administration structure and with the Sunshine Coast Teachers' Association to get a good understanding of what any changes might be, if there need to be any, but it really is playing out in a larger place than the Sunshine Coast. So once we have a little bit more definition of what the next steps are from that perspective we'll be able to make plans."

Bocking said parents would be kept up to date on the situation via emails, phone calls, information sent home with children and the school district website at www.sd46.bc.ca.


© Coast Reporter

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