Province will appeal teachers' contract ruling - Fassbender

Education Minister Peter Fassbender announced Tuesday the government will appeal last week’s court decision ruling that B.C. teachers’ bargaining rights were violated.

In the ruling, the BC Teachers Federation was awarded $2 million.

“In the judge’s decision, the government had infringed on teachers’ freedom of association. We are looking for clarity of ‘freedom of association,’” said Fassbender, former Langley City mayor.

“It’s not about the money. That is not why we are appealing. We need to clarify, what are the government’s rights to set policy in the education system?”

He said this ruling gives the BCTF the ability to override government decisions.

Fassbender went on to say that the ruling is only in the union’s interest and “not for students’ needs.”

He said if the judgement stands, it is “completely unaffordable.”

It’s believed the ruling could cost taxpayers well upwards of $1 billion in new hiring of education staff. Those would be the initial costs and then there would be annual costs after that.

For the 4.6 million B.C. people who already invest $5 billion a year into the Kindergarten to Grade 12 education system, this isn’t affordable, he said.

Fassbender also went after the court ruling which rejected the government’s effort to keep class size and special needs supports and class composition off the bargaining table.

The ruling supported the formulas for class size limits and teacher/student ratios including special needs that had been included in the teachers’ contract.

Class composition can’t have a rigid formula — each class situation is unique and must be looked at as such, argued Fassbender.

Langley Teachers’ Association president Gail Chaddock-Costello said last week that in Langley there are classrooms with upwards of six to eight special needs students — each requiring specialized lesson plans. She argued that puts teachers in a daunting situation where all the students lose out.

In the press conference, Fassbender said the decision to appeal is not to provoke disruption in schools.

“The message is we want to negotiate a long term agreement,” he said. “Right now, it’s business as usual, nothing changes for school district’s budgets this year.”

BCTF president Jim Iker said later that this government thinks they are “above the law.”

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