BCTF appeal to be heard

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The Supreme Court of Canada ruled this week that it will hear an appeal from the BC Teachers’ Federation to restore language about class size, composition rules and specialist teachers ratios to their contract.

“BCTF is very pleased with the Supreme Court of Canada’s decision to hear our appeal,” said Jim Iker, BCTF president. “It’s another important step in this long-journey through the court system for us.”

The government released a statement saying they are confident in their legal position but appreciates the democratic process.

The on-going dispute dates back to 2002 when the province stripped teachers of their right to bargain class size and composition through legislation. The teachers fought that legislation in court and won.

But Bill 22 passed in 2013 by the government similarly blocked teachers from negotiating class size and composition.

“By unconstitutionally stripping our collective agreement 14 years ago, this government did so much harm to our public education system,” said Iker.

The BCTF has 30 days to submit its written appeal to the SCC and it normally takes about 10 months from when the decision is made to go ahead with a hearing date.

The provincial government said despite the court challenge the two sides are working together closely to implement the new curriculum and improve teacher training. “Since the last round of bargaining government’s relationship with the BCTF has never been better,” said BC Education Minister Mike Bernier.

But BCTF says they still disagree over funding.

“While the relationship is good, we still have a responsibility to continue advocating for our students in our classrooms and more funding,” said Iker.

Outsiders say the latest court challenge will perpetuate the adversity in the relationship between the BC government and teachers.

“They have been in a very antagonistic relationship through all kinds of bargaining structures, all kinds of governments of different political directions, and all sorts of different leadership at the BCTF,” said Fiona McQuarrie, Associate Professor of industrial relations in the School of Business at the University of the Fraser Valley.

With files from Farrah Merali, Richard Zussman and Tina Lovgreen, for cbc.ca.

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