Frustrated and disappointed by the provincial government’s unwillingness to redress the unconstitutionality of its contract-stripping legislation, the BC Teachers’ Federation is going back to Madam Justice Susan Griffin to seek clarification on her April 2011 Supreme Court ruling. The full text of the judgment is available here.
After five meetings with the government-appointed representative responsible for dealing with the repercussions of the court decision on Bills 27 and 28, the BCTF has written to Paul Straszak to halt any further discussion until after the court hearing, slated for October 11, 2011.
“Throughout these meetings we have been very clear that we expect the government to respect the Supreme Court ruling by repealing the offending legislation, restoring our constitutional bargaining rights, and returning our illegally-stripped collective agreement provisions,” said BCTF President Susan Lambert, adding that those provisions included firm class size limits, guarantees of services for students with special needs, and equitable access to skilled specialist teachers – all crucial factors in maintaining quality teaching and learning conditions.
Instead, the government proposed a vague framework for discussion on a “Class Organization Fund (COF)” which, by contrast to the fair and objective processes illegally removed from the collective agreement, offers no assurance of universal access to services based on the needs of students.
“This proposed Class Organization Fund would pit classes, schools and school districts against one another in a race for scarce resources,” Lambert said. “Ultimately it would create competition between vulnerable students for the very services they so urgently need to succeed at school. It’s profoundly unfair.”
Aside from being inherently inequitable, Lambert outlined other fundamental flaws in the proposal:
- If teachers disagree with management about how COF funds are to be allocated, their students will receive no funding;
- There are no assurances as to stability of the funding from one year to the next;
- It is not enforceable under the collective agreement; and
- It in no way addresses the rights issues that were at the heart of the Supreme Court ruling.
“This proposal is a tacit admission by government that more funding is needed to address class size and composition issues, and to provide services for students with special needs, ESL learners and aboriginal students,” Lambert said. “And teachers agree. But that is a completely separate issue from our successful Charter challenge, which was about asserting our constitutional right to negotiate working conditions and restoring our contract provisions which were illegally taken away.”