Teachers across BC are celebrating the Tuesday, January 28, ruling by the BC Supreme Court, reaffirming that provincial legislation limiting teachers’ bargaining rights is unconstitutional, restoring collective agreement provisions stripped in 2002, and ordering the province to pay $2 million in damages plus court costs.
“I’m very happy today,” BCTF President Jim Iker said in a statement. “This is the end of a long and costly legal battle for the teachers of BC. It’s a great day for democracy, and for all working people across BC and Canada.”
The ruling was also welcome news for Revelstoke Teachers’ Association President Jennifer Wolney.
She said it will have an impact on teachers and students in five classes at Revelstoke Secondary School, five at Columbia Park Elementary and three at Arrow Heights.
Iker noted that the legislation was already declared unconstitutional in 2011, and the judge gave government one year to rectify the situation. However, government simply reintroduced the same unconstitutional provisions.
By removing class-size limits and class-composition guarantees, the government did significant damage to learning conditions in schools across the province.
“Children who were in Kindergarten when those bills were passed are now in Grade 12, and have spent their entire school careers in larger classes with fewer resources,” he said. “For the past 12 years, thousands of children couldn’t get the services they needed because government broke the law.”
The legislation removed provisions that guaranteed smaller classes, support for students with special needs, and services from teacher-librarians, counsellors, and other specialists. Government then cut hundreds of millions of dollars a year from public education budgets, forcing school boards to cut programs and close more than 200 public schools. More than 3,500 teaching positions, including 1,500 specialist teachers, were also cut.
“If government had respected the Charter, teachers would not have had to spend the past dozen years fighting for our rights,” Iker said. “Now we expect that government will do everything necessary to demonstrate respect for the court’s ruling and make the situation right. Restore our smaller classes, rehire our specialist colleagues, and help us rebuild the excellent public education system that British Columbians expect for their children.”
The full judgment can be found at: