The government will appeal a recent B.C. Supreme Court ruling that restored certain bargaining rights for teachers, Education Minister Peter Fassbender said Tuesday.
Premier Christy Clark said almost a week ago that the government would likely appeal. Today, the education minister confirmed the move.
Fassbender said he doesnâ€™t agree with the verdict of Justice Susan Griffin, who ruled last week that the Liberal government has twice passed unconstitutional legislation to limit teachers from bargaining on class size and composition.
â€œGovernment has a different interpretation of prior Supreme Court of Canada decisions related to the freedom of association than was outlined in the judgment,â€ said Fassbender, who said the province wants â€œclarityâ€ on the issue.
Justice Griffin also found the Liberal government was trying to provoke a strike with teachers two years ago in order to impose legislation upon the B.C Teachersâ€™ Federation.
The court awarded $2 million in damages to the BCTF and the ruling could retroactively restore class size and composition language stripped from teachersâ€™ contracts in 2002.
Such a restoration, with its â€œrigid formulasâ€ for class sizes, would cost the government â€œupwards of $1 billion,â€ said Fassbender.
â€œIn practical terms the judgment is completely unaffordable for taxpayers,â€ he said. â€œIt would create huge disruptions in our schools and most importantly it will prevent districts from providing the right mix of supports that our students actually need.â€
Fassbender called upon the BCTF to return to the bargaining table for scheduled talks Feb. 6, though he admitted he didnâ€™t know the legalities of how government can bargain a new contract in the wake of a court decision it is choosing to appeal. The Attorney Generalâ€™s ministry will provide a more detailed explanation of the governmentâ€™s legal position in the future, said Fassbender.
The appeal is almost certain to inflame contract talks with teachers, who had urged the government to simply accept the court ruling and move on.
Fassbender, who has not spoken to the BCTF since the ruling, said itâ€™s not his intention to provoke the union.
â€œIâ€™m not declaring war,â€ he said of the continued 12-year legal battle with teachers.
Fassbender took particular issue with Justice Griffinâ€™s characterization that the Liberal government was trying to provoke a strike in 2011.
â€œThat is the judgeâ€™s interpretation,â€ Fassbender said.
â€œI can tell you that this governmentâ€™s policy is not to provoke disruption, not to provoke strikes. The judge has her interpretationâ€¦ we disagree with that, and make no hesitation in saying clearly on behalf of this government we disagree with that interpretation.â€
However, Fassbender declined to release the internal government documents that Justice Griffen said prove the government negotiated in bad faith. Those documents, obtained by the BCTF, canâ€™t be released during the appeals period. Whether the public can see the documents is a matter for lawyers, said Fassbender.
â€“ Rob Shaw is a Vancouver Sun reporter.
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