The B.C. Teacher’s Federation (BCTF) has won a landmark ruling against the B.C. Government in the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC).
In a rare move, the SCC ruled from the bench 7-2 in favour of the BCTF about their collective bargaining rights.
The BCTF was asking the high court to reconsider the B.C. Court of Appeal’s decision that found the province did not violate teachers’ constitutional rights when it introduced Bill 22 in 2002. The bill temporarily limited teacher bargaining on class size and composition.
It was expected the SCC was just going to reserve decision relating to the B.C. Government appeal, but instead the SCC ruled from the bench.
“This is going to make such a huge difference for the working conditions for our members and classroom conditions in B.C.’s schools,” said BCTF president Glen Hansman.
In April 2015, the B.C. Court of Appeal ruled in favour of the government in this long-running legal dispute between them and the BCTF. In a 4-1 decision, B.C.’s highest court overturned Madam Justice Susan Griffin’s two rulings that the government failed to consult with the BCTF in good faith and denied teachers their freedom of association.
Today’s decision will require the government to restore staffing levels to pre-2002 levels.
“First of all, they’re going to be hiring many more teachers and getting them into B.C.’s schools working with students,” said Hansman.
“The provincial government, in its budget over the past couple of years, in their contingency line, has included money and a reference to a possible outcome of this court case. It is going to require the reinvestment of a few hundred million dollars more into the system, as it should be, given how badly funded B.C.’s public education system is right now compared to the rest of Canada.”
It is estimated this decision could cost the government an extra $250M to $300M a year.
The BCTF says schools across the province are in need of about 3,500 full-time equivalent teaching positions.
The B.C. Government has not yet responded to this ruling.