Premier Clark, BCTF respond to ongoing appeal of teachers’ bargaining rights

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The B.C. Appeal Court has ruled the government did not violate teachers’ charter rights to bargain class size and composition, reversing a lower-court decision in favour of the union.

The decision at the end of last month was followed by B.C. Teacher Federation confirmation it will seek leave to appeal the ruling and it has 60 days to do it.

President Jim Iker says an appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada is important not only for his union members, but for their students and working people across this province.

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“They absolutely see the need for it and they understand why,” says Iker. “It’s about our students’ learning condition, it’s about working conditions, and it’s about the sanctity of when you sign an agreement between a government and a union, that they honour it.”

In each appeal case, the Supreme Court must decide if it’s in the national interest to proceed, and in most of them, it is far from a slam dunk.

“They only hear about 10 per cent of the cases that they’re requested to hear.”

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That’s Premier Christy Clark responding to the fact that last year there were reportedly 80 appeal applications from the B.C. Appeal Court and only eight of them were heard.

She’s also responded to accusations the government wants to undermine the province’s public education system and build up the private sector.

“We need a mix of education in the province,” Clark proclaims. “Parents need to be able to choose what kind of education that they want, but the core of it is a high-quality public education system.”

The BCTF counters that it was the Premier, who during last year’s strike, promised to make class composition her number one priority. But according to the government’s own numbers released last month, there are still 16,156 classes province-wide with four or more children with special needs.

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Here in District 60, the number of special needs students this year is 540 out of a total student population of about 5,600, but Superintendent Dave Sloan cautions the numbers are fluid, and by themselves do not relate the complexity of associated challenges.

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