B.C. teachers awarded $2 million in Bill 22 fight
Court finds Education Ministry was focused on gaining political support and enacted legislation already previously deemed illegal by the judiciary. B.C. Teachers Federation president Jim Iker called Monday's decision a "victory" for the education system. (CARMINE MARINELLI/ 24 HOURS)
The B.C. Supreme Court has ordered Victoria to pay $2 million to the union representing the province’s teachers, saying government was “playing politics” by trying to push educators to strike, and imposed unconstitutional legislation that limited collective bargaining rights.
In a decision handed down Monday, Justice Susan Griffin slammed the provincial government for creating Bill 22, a now-rejected law governing collective bargaining that was nearly identical to legislation previously deemed unconstitutional by the courts.
She said the ruling BC Liberals were trying to provoke teachers into a strike in 2011 by putting forward unacceptable suggestions during bargaining.
As a result, according to the court, it could then crackdown on teachers’ job action through its legislation without agreeing to wage increases, or reinstating class sizes and support-staff provisions.
“The government thought that a teachers strike would give the government a political advantage in imposing legislation that the public might otherwise not support,” Griffin wrote, concluding Victoria didn’t negotiate in “good faith.”
She added without a fine, “the motivation to act unconstitutionally … can simply be too tempting on the part of governments.”
Minister of Education Peter Fassbender said Victoria was “not trying to goad anybody” into striking and disagreed with the ruling.
He said government is focused on improving student outcomes and would review the court decision before making a move.
“Our government does not have an agenda to create disharmony,” Fassbender told reporters. “I am not going to debate the judge and her comments.”
B.C. Teachers Federation president Jim Iker said the union is currently back at the bargaining table.
He said the ruling means class sizes, compositions and a number of support teachers first eliminated in 2002 would now set a “base-level” for future bargaining.
“That means smaller classes, more support for all B.C. kids and extra help from specialist teachers,” Iker said. “We’re hoping now the government will respect the court decision.”