Mike Ball

Mike Ball

Nanaimo teachers’ union president elated with Supreme Court ruling

NANAIMO – Mike Ball, Nanaimo District Teachers' Association president, wants to see return to class size numbers from 2002.

The Nanaimo teachers’ union head is elated the Supreme Court of Canada has ruled in his union’s favour in its long-standing dispute with the B.C. government.

The dispute has its roots in 2002 when then-education minister Christy Clark introduced legislation that removed class size and composition negotiating rights from the collective bargaining agreement.

B.C. Supreme Court Judge Susan Griffin twice ruled against the province, first in 2011 and then in January 2014, when she also awarded $2 million in damages. However, the province won an appeal in April 2015, prompting the union’s appeal to Canada’s top court.

The two sides signed a five-year collective bargaining agreement in September 2014.

Mike Ball, Nanaimo District Teachers’ Association president, said because this week’s ruling comes from the Canadian supreme court, the province can’t appeal.

“Obviously, we’re ecstatic with the ruling,” said Ball. “The fact that they’ve affirmed that what the government did was unconstitutional is huge for us and all unions across Canada. What this does is it enshrines collective bargaining into the constitution.”

Ball said the union would like to see a return to class size and composition numbers from 2002.

“For 14 years, you add it up, they’ve short-changed B.C.’s kids by somewhere around $4 billion of funding, so it’s not hard to do, it’s the will to do it,” Ball said. “With a $1.9 billion (provincial budget) surplus, they could easily have funded $600,000 into education this year and more into health care. So it’s not difficult to do, it’s whether it’s a priority or not.”

The B.C. Ministry of Education referred inquiries to the Ministry of Finance, and in a statement, Mike de Jong, minister of finance, said the government welcomes the direction from the Supreme Court as “it addresses uncertainty in labour relations.”

“The six-year collective agreement we reached with the [B.C. Teachers’ Federation] in 2014 included an agreement on the process that both the employer and union would follow when the Supreme Court gave a verdict. The collective agreement remains in place, and the employer and the BCTF will now meet to discuss how we move forward to address this aspect of the ruling,” said de Jong.

In a press release, Glen Hansman, BCTF president, said the union will be communicating in further detail in the coming weeks.