The Court Case
You might have noticed a few items in the media about a certain court ruling that is widely being seen as a win for teachers. For once the media seem to have gotten it right. It was a win – it was huge. Had I been a betting person, (perish the thought) I would have lost a whole bunch of money on this court ruling. I simply did not believe it was possible.
A brief review of time lines:
- January 2002 – our Collective Agreements were stripped of all class size and composition provisions by then education minister Christy Clark.
- We subsequently challenged the government’s ability to introduce such legislation. This was after the HEU won their court challenge at the Supreme Court of Canada over the same legislation.
- April 2011 – Justice Griffin rules in favour of teachers and says, in fact, the government did violate our charter rights. Gives the government one year to remedy the situation.
- March 2012 – After a fruitless year of discussions/bargaining with government about the court ruling, the liberal government passes Bill 22. This essentially reinstates all of the provisions of Bill 28 that were ruled to be unconstitutional. We actually do reach a bargaining settlement in June 2012 with the help of a mediator.
- We return to court and say the government remedies of Bill 22 do not meet the requirements set out in Justice Griffin’s ruling.
- January 28, 2014 (coincidentally? The 12th anniversary of Bill 28) – Justice Griffin renders a second decision. And, to put it mildly, she is not amused. The government is found to have violated our charter rights – twice. The government and a number of their officials are absolutely pilloried. Their strategy to attempt to provoke a strike so they could have public support to legislate concessions is severely criticized. Even more, Justice Griffin affirmed a democratic right to collective bargaining and the right of each side to expect bargaining in good faith.
- She awards the BCTF costs plus $2 million in damages. Most importantly she resets the clock to 2002 and says the stripped language is restored.
A very informative summary of the decision, by BCTF legal counsel, Diane MacDonald, can be found at the following link:
It makes very interesting reading – and, for once, quite enjoyable.
The ruling says that the stripped language from 2002 is restored. If this actually does come about it could have a huge impact across the province. Locally the restored language will have an impact, but less so than in some other districts. Mostly the impact would be at the primary level.
Any primary class with more than 22 students could be impacted. This would include split classes including 3/4 splits. Any straight K class with more than 20 and any K/1 split with more than 17 could be affected.
The class size provision in our restored language for 4-12 classes is 30. According to district reports they have not exceeded this number for any 4-12 class. This will take a bit of checking.
Any intermediate split (from grades 4-7) above 27 could be affected.
There is also a provision, “where safety is a factor in a lab, shop or other specialized classroom, the number shall not exceed the number for which the facility is designed” With shop classes, this usually was a limit of 24. So, shop classes of more than 24 could be affected.
Also, of real importance, is the restoration of the “Remedy” language for any class exceeding the limits after October 15th. If class size is exceeded then there are provisions for class size reduction, additional prep time, other professional support, or some mutually agreed resolution. This would be quite important.
The restoration would also see the return of our ‘Mainstreaming and Integration’ language.
The other important item is the restoration of the non-enrolling ratios. They were / are:
- Teacher Librarians 1:563
- Counsellors 1:693
- Learning Assistance 1:450
- Special Ed. Resource 1:220
- ESL 1 for every 33 identified students
These are meant to be calculated on a district wide basis. After a very quick look, and there does need to be some closer scrutiny, the district meets and/ or exceeds these non-enrolling numbers. That is not the case in many districts.
We will try and provide a link to all of the stripped provisions later next week.
Now, having said all of this, it remains likely the government will appeal the decision. What is not clear yet, is what happens to the restored language while that appeal is under way. There will be a presentation of the decision this weekend at the BCTF RA. There should be more information after that.
General Meeting Report
A big thank you to Glen Hansman,, BCTF 1st Vice President, for the presentation on the bargaining action plan. This action plan and the timing of some votes will be debated this weekend as well. Once a course of action has been decided, I will send out more information.
I will try and visit as many school staffs as I can in the next few weeks to go over the action plan. If there is a particular date that would work best for your staff, please let me know.
Canadian Labour Congress – May 5-9, 2014 – Montreal
The BCTF subsidizes the travel and expenses for one member per local to attend the CLC convention every three years. This year it will take place in Montreal. Our General Meeting passed a motion to choose a VINTA member to represent the Vancouver Island North Teachers’ Association at this year’s convention.
If you are interested in representing VINTA at the CLC convention in Montreal, please come to the next general Meeting.
Meeting time – To Be Announced.
Thanks folks. It is good to enjoy a ruling that actually supports students, teachers and public education!!!
Vancouver Island North Teachers’ Association