The British Columbia Teachers’ Federation is expecting full restitution following a judge’s ruling that two provincial laws dealing with class size and class composition were unconstitutional.
“Parents should expect this government live up to the standard called for the judge and return by next September in 2011 dollars, the money that was robbed from the system,” said Susan Lambert, president of the BCTF. “We figure that will be about $337 million throughout the province and that’s just the minimum that should happen.”
Lambert was in Revelstoke to take part in the Revelstoke Teachers’ Association AGM last Thursday at the Regent Inn. She was accompanied by Bill MacFarlane, the head of the RTA, who is also part of the provincial bargaining committee.
The court case in question dealt with the legality of Bills 27 and 28, which stripped class size and class composition from collective bargaining. In April, Justice Susan Griffin of the B.C. Supreme Court said the Bills were unconstitutional and gave the government a year to work out an alternative to the 2002 legislation.
George Abbott, the BC Minister of Education, said the government would not appeal the ruling.
However, Lambert said the BCTF wants class size and composition to be part of the next collective bargaining agreement, which is currently being negotiated. The current agreement expires at the end of June.
“The reason why we want to negotiate working conditions is because that is a guarantee of better learning conditions for kids,” she said.
Abbott said he would like to see a negotiated solution but new legislation could be introduced if that doesn’t happen.
Lambert said a meeting with the B.C. Public School Employers Association (BCPSEA) is scheduled for May 20 to discuss the implications of the court ruling on labour negotiations. Right now, she said, there is not even an agreement on what items will be negotiated provincially and what will be negotiated at the local level. The BCTF prefers most items to be negotiated locally, leaving only salaries, benefits, hours of work and paid leave at the provincial level.
“Basically bargaining has stalled,” she said. “It has stalled provincially on the issue of the split of issues and it has stalled locally because BCPSEA is advising boards to stall on protocol issues.”
All this could mean some sort of work stoppage if no agreement is reached by the next school year.
“Now we’re at the end of May and we haven’t talked about substantive issues at the local and provincial level,” Lambert said. “If we go into next school year without a signed agreement then we have to look at ways to persuade boards and BCPSEA to really become serious about bargaining.”