BCTF Online Museum

2002 Province-wide protest against removal of bargaining rights and class size and composition provisions (Contract stripping)

With the existing contract due to expire on June 30, 2001, teachers set bargaining objectives in February 2001 and the BCTF launched their bargaining campaign - It's about Time. Negotiations opened on March 5, 2001.

Immediately following the election of a Liberal government in May 2001, Essential Services legislation for teachers was introduced. In the third round of provincial bargaining, in the fall of 2001, the BCTF took their first-ever provincial strike vote. A total of 91.4% of British Columbia teachers voted "yes." BC teachers served strike notice on November 5, 2001 and the Labour Relations Board upheld Phases I and II of the teachers' job action plan. Teachers decided to withdraw all voluntary activities on January 7, 2002.

In spite of modified proposals from the BCTF, in January 2002 the government abandoned bargaining and passed legislation to gut the collective agreement of class size, class composition, and staffing ratio provisions. Most of the provisions guaranteeing support for students with special needs were eliminated. Future negotiations of such terms and conditions of employment were made illegal. The legislation that Gordon Campbell's Liberals imposed on BC teachers on January 25 was "everything we feared and more," said David Chudnovsky, President of the BCTF. "Many of our members hoped against hope that this legislation wouldn't be as bad as we had feared, but it's much, much worse. With the stroke of a pen, this government has eliminated the very provisions that ensure quality education for children." Bills 27 and 28 were passed on January 27, 2002.

On January 28, 2002, teachers held a one-day province-wide walkout to protest the unilateral intervention by government into bargaining.

2002 strike imageThe Education Minister of the day, Christy Clark, who would go on to be premier when the legislation was finally struck down by the Supreme Court of Canada in November of 2016, made these comments (excerpted from 2001 Legislative Session: 2nd Session, 37th Parliament; Hansard Volume 2, Number 29) in the Legislature on January 26 regarding Bill 28. The legislation would result in government savings, estimated by Treasury Board, of $275 million a year; increases in class sizes; and the loss of over 3,000 teaching positions, including counsellors, learning assistance and ESL teachers.

Hon. C. Clark:

“I'm delighted to be able to stand today in this House and speak in favour of the Public Education Flexibility and Choice Act.

This bill, as my colleagues have said, is about putting students first on the agenda. . . .           

It puts class size protection in legislation for the first time in the history of British Columbia, and it gives parents a bigger say in how our schools are run for their children. . . .

The B.C. School Superintendents Association was here in support of the legislation. They also have students' best interests at heart. . . .

This legislation recognizes that class size limits and protection for special needs children are important, and that the place for these protections is in statute, not in collective agreements so that they are bargaining chips at a bargaining table. These issues are far, far too important for that. . . .

No one in this government will argue against the value of smaller class sizes. That is why we are putting class size regulations in legislation for the very first time in this province. . . .

Non-classroom teachers like counsellors, learning assistants and ESL teachers provide valuable services for our children, as I think all members have pointed out. . . .

The action we're taking through this bill to remove class size limits from the bargaining table and entrench it in legislation is good for students. . . .

In addition to that, for the first time we are putting in some real new protections for special needs children. . . .

This bill marks a turning point for public education, a turning point for every student in British Columbia. It marks a move toward a more flexible, more responsive, better-managed system that meets students' needs, one where students' needs win out over mathematical formulas, one where decisions are made by all the education partners in the system, and one where meeting students' needs is the absolute number one priority.

I am so proud to speak in support of this bill, and I look forward to getting on with the job of building a top-notch education system for British Columbia.”

The legislation to enact the stripping of our collective agreement and our bargaining rights was passed hastily over the last weekend of January. Here are 2 links to the Hansard records of the full debate and votes on Bills 27 and 28 on Saturday,  January 26 and Sunday, January 27, 2002. The BCTF Day of Protest followed immediately on Monday, January 28.