Court refuses to clarify Bills 27 and 28 ruling

By Katie Hyslop October 12, 2011   www.thetyee.ca

The B.C. government and the BC Teachers’ Federation will be heading back to the Bill27/28 bargaining table as early as next week, thanks to a refusal from the courts to further clarify the April ruling that called the legislation unconstitutional.

According to an article in the Vancouver Sun today, Justice Susan Griffin refused to offer further analysis of her April ruling on Bills 27 and 28 of the province’s School Act, which stripped class size and composition from teacher bargaining.

Justice Griffin had ruled the legislation unconstitutional, and gave the government one year to fix the problem.

The teachers interpret the ruling to mean government must return class size and composition to teacher bargaining, and the $275 million cut from the budget should be restored, adjusting for inflation. Government disagrees.

“We don’t believe that the courts decision obliges us to pursue that direction, nor do we think it would be an appropriate decision to pursue,” says George Abbott, provincial minister of education.

“I think that it created a great deal of inflexibility in terms of managing resources in classrooms, and in schools, and in school districts across the province.”

The collective bargaining process is happening simultaneous to, but separate from, negotiations over the two bills.

Despite the lack of consensus, both sides are optimistic about returning to the bargaining table.

“The outcome is what we had anticipated, so that’s good. But more importantly, we’re hoping that this will pave a way to a return by the teachers’ federation to the Bill 27/28 table discussion of the issues we need to resolve,” says Abbott.

The teachers’ union agrees, although their hoped for outcome may differ from government’s.

“Our position is now that we should be at the table with government, addressing the fact that we still have legislation on the books that is unconstitutional, and how to get rid of it,” says Susan Lambert, president of the BC Teachers’ Federation.

“We put forward a letter today and gave them some dates [for bargaining]. I don’t think we’ve had a reply, but it will probably be in the week after next.”

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