Experts say yesterday’s Supreme Court of Canada victory for the B.C. Teachers’ Federation in its 14-year long legal battle with the province over class size and composition could have rippling ramifications for provinces across Canada.
University of the Fraser Valley business professor Fiona McQuarrie says it could set precedent for what is considered “bargaining in good faith” as governments negotiate collective agreements with public sector unions.
“One of the issues that was key in this case is government using those exceptional powers to reach outcomes in bargaining. And I think a lot of people are hoping that the written decision coming out of this case will give some clarity as to what extent governments can use that unusual power that they have,” McQuarrie said.
“Governments have a unique role in industrial relations in the sense that they are not only employers but they are also the body that sets laws and legislation and policies.”
Canada’s highest court restored clauses removed from the teachers contract in 2002 dealing with class size, the number of special needs students in one classroom and the number of specialist teachers required in schools.
The teachers’ union victory could cost the province millions of dollars as its forced to hire hundreds of more teachers.
The Court stunned all parties when it reached a decision on the case just thirty minutes after hearing arguments, and gave a rare oral ruling. The full written decision has yet to be released.