Class size and composition at the heart of teachers’ union appeal

NANAIMO – B.C. Teachers' Federation will rely on familiar arguments as it prepares for an appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.

B.C. Teachers’ Federation will rely on familiar class-related arguments as it prepares for an appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada, says Mike Ball, Nanaimo local president.

Canada’s highest court announced Thursday it will hear the teachers’ union appeal related to its long-standing battle with the B.C. Ministry of Education. The dispute stems from the removal of class size and composition bargaining rights in legislation introduced by then-education minister Christy Clark 14 years ago.

“We don’t believe that government has the right to simply ignore collective agreements and rip them up by saying that they are not in the public’s interests,” said Ball. “In 2002, they stripped the collective agreement saying that class size and class composition is not a bargaining issue.

“We maintained that it is and it was bargained at the table. They maintained that it’s public policy and they get to set public policy, so the case hinges on collective agreement rights and bargaining rights.”

Ball said the union has 30 days to file the facts and 12 weeks to file documentation and then a hearing date will be set.

The dispute has been long and Ball said it hasn’t been a cheap process.

“Government has managed in 14 years to save, not spending $300 million on average per year by stripping the collective agreement … for us, that’s quite a few million dollars spent on fighting this, but it’s the right fight. It’s a just fight and it’s one that needs to be fought and at the end of it, I believe we’ll be vindicated,” Ball said.

Education Minister Mike Bernier said he couldn’t comment on the legal aspects as it is before the courts.

“We’ve always said that the BCTF’s application to have their case heard in the Supreme Court of Canada is part of the democratic process,” Bernier said in a statement. “We are confident in our legal position and appreciate any further guidance the court may provide.”

A B.C. Supreme Court judge previously ruled against the province and ordered it to pay $2 million in damages stemming from the 2002 legislation.

The province appealed and last April, a B.C. Court of Appeal panel ruled in the province’s favour, prompting the Supreme Court of Canada appeal.

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