Province plans appeal of teachers’ contract ruling

The Nanaimo teachers’ union doesn’t think the province will have much of an argument for an appeal of a recent B.C. Supreme Court ruling related to collective bargaining.

On Tuesday, Education Minister Peter Fassbender announced the province would appeal Justice Susan Griffin’s Jan. 27 ruling, restoring negotiating rights for class size and composition, stating it would be unaffordable for taxpayers and disrupt schools. Griffin also ordered the province to pay $2 million in damages in her ruling.

In 2002, the B.C. Liberal government of the time passed Bill 28, which stripped negotiating rights for classroom composition and it was eventually ruled unconstitutional.

The province may not like the decision, but Nanaimo District Teachers’ Association president Mike Ball said Griffin was “on solid ground” and there wouldn’t be much legal ground to appeal.

“Are they really going to appeal the $2 million? I mean the $2 million was for them not dealing with the process correctly through Bill 22, wiping out Bill 28 and putting it all back in again. I don’t know that there’s much in there for them to appeal,” Ball said. “Will they stall it? Probably, but that’s a costly process and they’ve already spent 12 years of money fighting losing causes. The public should be asking the question, how much money are they going to waste?”

About 6,600 teachers would have to be hired to put provincial class sizes on par with the rest of the country, according to B.C. Teachers’ Federation union president Jim Iker. The Ministry of Education pegs the cost of that to taxpayers at $1 billion.

“Government’s comprehensive legal arguments will be set out in its factum, which in accordance with the Court of Appeal timelines must be filed within 90 days of the notice of appeal,” Fassbender said in a media release.

– With files from Tom Fletcher

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