Posts tagged BCPSEA

A teachers’ strike means, unfortunately, that we are living in interesting times

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Tomorrow is the start of a three-day strike that will impact nearly every person in British Columbia.  Roughly 41,000 teachers will withdraw their services following a recent vote of members of the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation (see the BCTF’s press release here). 

Janet Steffenhagen of the Vancouver Sun reported that most public schools in the province will be closed tomorrow, as school authorities urge parents to make alternative arrangements for the supervision of their children.  With the strike having been announced on Thursday, parents will have had a couple of days to prepare for this, but school closures are never easy for anyone to deal with.  Many, many businesses and other organizations rely on employees, managers and contractors with children in public schools, and not everyone has a grandparent, friend or spouse with the flexibility to stay home and watch the kids.

In other words, this is gonna sting. 

So, how did we get here?!  Well, that really depends who you ask, but here are the basics of the story:

  • For the past decade or so, the BCTF and the provincial government – represented here by the British Columbia Public School Employers’ Association - have locked horns over a variety of issues, including teachers’ wages and class size and composition.
  • The BCTF and the BCPSEA have been in high-level negotiation sessions without substantial progress for the past year, and the BCTF has been in a heightened state of protest since September. 
  • Last week, the British Columbia Labour Relations Board ruled that the BCTF could strike for three days without breaking the BCLRB decision designating education as an essential service, provided the BCTF gave the BCPSEA at least two days’ notice and the teachers did not picket.
  • Later that day, George Abbott, the Minister of Education, introduced Bill 22 (BC Legislature), which is intended to end the dispute and return the parties to mediation with particular references for the mediator.  The BCTF was horrified with Bill 22.

Which brings us to tomorrow.  Here is the Vancouver Sun editorial board’s take on the situation, clearly siding with the government. 

The BCTF has beat out the government on many of the legal issues connected to the tit-for-tat over the years.  Most recently, the British Columbia Supreme Court ruled (see here) that certain provisions of the School Act (BC Laws) dealing with class size that were introduced by the government to remove them from the bargaining table were unconstitutional.

The challenge for both sides may be to try to win the battle and the war.  The BCTF may win in the streets, the legislature or the courtroom but lose in the dining rooms – and for the months and years that follow, that may make all the difference.

BCCA favours BCTF in class size grievance against school employers

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The BC Court of Appeal has released its decision (CanLII) in another round of litigation over class sizes between the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) and the British Columbia Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA), setting aside the original arbitration and court decisions and sending the matter back to the initial arbitration stage with some guidance.  Essentially, the court sided with the BCTF, which has claimed the victory.

Here is the BCPSEA’s take on the decision, which includes a fairly comprehensive backgrounder and overview of the judgment.  Here is the BCTF’s press release.  Here is coverage from the Vancouver Sun’s education reporter, Janet Steffenhagen, on the decision;  scroll to the bottom of the page to review some of the public comments.

Class size has been a hotly contested issue between teachers and their employers in public schools for many years (see here for another post on the subject).  This most recent decision of the BC Court of Appeal serves to further refine the meaning of the provisions on class size added to the School Act (BCLaws).  See here, here, here, here, and here (CanLII) for a sampling of decisions dealing with these provisions.

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