Supreme court backs B.C. teachers' bargaining rights in long-running dispute - InfoNews

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Supreme court backs B.C. teachers' bargaining rights in long-running dispute

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November 10, 2016 - 12:39 PM

OTTAWA - British Columbia's unionized teachers have won a long-standing battle with the provincial government over the rights to bargain class sizes in a ruling today from the Supreme Court of Canada.

Rich Overgaard of the B.C. Teachers' Federation says the court delivered a verbal decision in favour of the teachers after a hearing today at the Supreme Court in Ottawa.

He says the judges voted 7-2 in favour of the union.

The court confirms it allowed the appeal in a news release and says it will release a written judgment within 48 hours.

Overgaard says the decision is "stunning."

It overturns a B.C. Court of Appeal ruling that found the province did not violate teachers' rights to bargain class sizes and the number of special-needs children in each class in their contracts.

The province first imposed legislation that removed teachers' ability to bargain class size and composition in 2002. After a B.C. Supreme Court judge deemed the law unconstitutional in 2011, the province imposed a new law the following year.

Similar to the previous legislation, it restricted school boards' power to determine staffing levels and establish the size and composition of classes or how many teacher assistants can be hired per student in a school.

The dispute led to an acrimonious strike in 2014.

A B.C. Supreme Court judge ruled the legislation unconstitutional but the appeal court overturned that decision a year later. Four of five appeal court justices found the province consulted meaningfully with teachers and the legislation didn't violate the charter.

A long-term contract has been signed between teachers and the government.

Union president Glen Hansman told CHNL radio that they're elated by the ruling.

"This has been 15 years in the making," he said.

"They have said our appeal has been granted and that means our language is back. What that means operationally is something we are definitely going to have to talk about."

News from © The Canadian Press, 2016
The Canadian Press

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