The Supreme Court of Canada has ruled the British Columbia Teachers Federation (BCTF) should regain its right to collective bargaining.
The battle between the BCTF and the Liberal government of British Columbia has been going on since 2002 when Christy Clark, then minister of education, stripped the right to collective bargaining from BCTF contracts.
“Those rights that were stripped in 2002, it’s all been about coming to the table and bargaining in good faith,” said Ric Bardati, president of the Arrow Lakes Teachers Association. “This court case shows that they were stepping all over the rights of the teachers.”
Collective bargaining is the right to bargain a collective agreement when negotiating a contract. Anything from benefits, working conditions, and more can be bargained.
Class sizes and composition is one of the many things teachers would like to be able to bargain on.
Composition varies from classroom to classroom, with a wide variety of types and categories, including special needs students. Funding for things such as learning resource teachers has been low for quite some time.
“It’s been underfunded for 14 years now, and it’s really damaging the public system,” said Bardati. “Teachers have been putting their own coin into a lot of stuff to make things work, and we’ve been asking the BCTF for putting money to support a number of things in the classroom for the number of different compositions.”
Over the years there have been many ups and downs for the BCTF. One of the more sombre times during the legal battle was in 2013, when teachers across the province, including those in School District 10, went on strike.
During the final presentation before the Supreme Court of B.C. each side had an hour to present their factum. While a decision loomed on the horizon, no one could have anticipated how fast the bench would have come back with an answer.
“Normally it takes a couple of months to have a decision, so thirty minutes, verbal, off the bench, that doesn’t happen to often,” said Bardati.
While he doesn’t know how the negotiations are going to replace the language that was stripped from the agreement, Bardati is happy there are some positive things on the horizon for staff and students in public education.
“I’m looking forward to some good faith bargaining and restoring the services that are needed for all students and all the different needs that students come into our community with.”