Brynn Cunnian

Appeal of class-size ruling scheduled for next month

NANAIMO – Teachers continue strike action across B.C. but key appeal begins Oct. 14.

While the teachers’ strike continues, an appeal of a B.C. Supreme Court ruling related to class size and composition is set to be heard next month.

Class size and composition have been key issues in the long-standing labour dispute between B.C. teachers and the province. The issues have been broached during current negotiations, referred to as E80 contract language, which is the employer’s proposal for collective agreement language that deals with the two topics, according to Peter Cameron, chief negotiator for the province.

When Christy Clark was education minister in 2002, she introduced Bill 28, which took away the B.C. Teachers’ Federation’s right to negotiate on class size and composition.

The union has twice seen favourable rulings from the B.C. Supreme Court, once in 2011, which saw Judge Susan Griffin order a return to 2002 classroom rules and a one-year period to institute changes. Griffin again ruled in favour of teachers in late January, stating the government’s Bill 22, which was in response to the 2011 ruling, was essentially the same as Bill 28.

Griffin’s latest ruling awarded teachers $2 million in damages. She said the government bargained in bad faith and tried to provoke a strike. Education Minister Peter Fassbender announced in February that the province would appeal the decision.

The B.C. Court of Appeal hearing is set for Oct. 14-16 in front of a five-judge panel.

Mike Ball, president of Nanaimo and District Teachers’ Association, said the union won’t negotiate when it comes to the class size and composition ruling.

“How can we give away the court case? The government stripped the language in 2002 and then they want us to say, ‘Well OK, even though you won in the courts, this will be three times, we want you to give that up.’ Teachers can’t do that,” he said, adding a decision in the case could come early next year.

The Ministry of Education said it didn’t want to comment on the case as it was before the courts.

Mediator Vince Ready has been in contact with both sides, according to Ball and Cameron, but there are no negotiations scheduled. Ball said teachers will continue picketing.

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