Provincial talks over classrooms break down

Talks between the province and the teachers’ union over classroom size and composition have broken down.

Talks between the province and the teachers’ union over a remedy to problems the Supreme Court identified with provincial legislation regarding classroom size and composition have broken down.

Last spring, B.C. Supreme Court Justice Susan Griffin ruled that parts of the 2002 legislation that removed certain working and learning conditions clauses, such as limits on class size and the number of special needs students in each class, from teachers’ collective agreements violated teachers’ rights to freedom of association under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The province is offering to create a class organization fund, worth $165 million over the next three years, which would target classrooms with the highest needs and could be used to provide extra teaching staff or education assistants.

The B.C. Teachers’ Federation is seeking a restoration of working and learning conditions in place before 2002, to be included in teacher collective agreements.

“Clearly the Liberals believe teachers’ rights to bargain and students’ rights to quality classroom conditions must be sacrificed to management’s right to reduce thousands of teaching positions in B.C.,” said BCTF president Susan Lambert, in a press release.

Education Ministry George Abbott said in an e-mail he’s “extremely disappointed” that talks broke down, but the court has given the province a deadline to resolve the issues and that government would have to begin preparing corrective legislation by the end of November.

“What the union is now suggesting would require as much as a 50-per cent increase in the number of teachers in B.C. at a cost of more than $1 billion to resolve this matter,” he said. “As a result, we find ourselves at an impasse.”