Two big wins for the provincial government in B.C.’s highest court in the case over teachers’ rights to bargain class size and composition.
A special five-member BC Court of Appeal panel has found the province’s Education Improvement Act, otherwise known as Bill 22, did not infringe on teachers’ charter rights to freedom of association.
In its 4-1 decision, B.C.’s top court also ruled the province did not act in bad faith when it put that legislation into place.
By tossing out the ruling by BC Supreme Court Justice Susan Griffin, the appeal court has ruled teachers’ rights were respected through various consultations with the BC Teachers Federation and collective bargaining that led up to the legislation being introduced.
Judge wrong in ruling the province acted in bad faith during bargaining.
In ruling that he lower court judge erred in ruling the province didn’t consult in good faith, the majority opinion was that the courts don’t have the proper tools to make those types of assessments.
In this ruling, the province also won another battle with the BCTF over the release of cabinet documents.
The appeal court ruled unanimously it was not right for the lower court to make a ruling allowing for the release of those confidential documents.
Under court rules, the BCTF has sixty days to apply to the Supreme Court of Canada.
If they do that, Canada’s higest court has to decide whether to hear that appeal.
Out of eighty applications from B.C. made to the Supreme Court of Canada last year, only eight were heard.
Today’s decision was co-authored by BC Chief Justice Robert Bauman, and BC Court of Appeal Justice David Harris.
The dissenting opinion came from BC Court of Appeal Justice Ian Donald, who happens to be a former labour lawyer.
Will BCTF appeal?
Teresa Rezansoff head of the BC School Trustees Association says they are taking today’s decision in stride knowing full well this is likely not the end of this legal fight.
“However we work our way through this as a sector it needs to be with keeping our students in mind at all times and ensuring we can to provide for them and that stability that is so important for their learning.”
Though it’s unlikely, Rezansoff says she hopes both parties can find their way to a mutual agreement in light of today’s court ruling.
Premier Christy Clark says today’s decision is giving everyone the opportunity to put the disputes in the past
“And it’s a chance for us to focus on doing what’s really best for kids and students by working together
Education Minister Peter Fassbender’s comments this morning also focused on collaboration
“Today is another step where we can lay down the gauntlet to each other and say we’re going to focus on student outcomes wee’re going to focus on the future of education.”
Fassbender’s scheduled question and answer session has been postponed to later today.
BCTF president Jim Iker says he disagrees with today’s decision, taking solace in the one dissenting opinion from the judge who’s a labour lawyer.
“The BCTF executive committee with discuss the ruling further, but I can tell you today. But I can tell you today that the BCTF will seek leave to appeal this decision to the Supreme Court of Canada.”
He says the government should not just able to do what it wants and impose legislation when there is collective bargaining in place.
Iker adds member’s union dues will pay the legal bill for the Supreme Court of Canada case if it is accepted to be heard.
Iker says the union will also pay back to the provincial government the two-million-dollars it received from the province as mandated in the last BC Supreme Court decision.