Court’s class size ruling to play out in Alberni

A B.C. Supreme Court judge has sided with teachers in their right to bargain class size and composition. But school employers association plays down impact.

A B.C. Supreme Court judge has found a provincial law denying teachers the right to bargain class size and composition to be unconstitutional.

The ruling is still being studied by the Alberni District Teacher’s Union, but it will likely have implications in School District 70, president Ken Zydyk said.

“We’ve had two bargaining sessions so far and we look forward to returning to the table,” he said.

Critical issues in contract talks with the district are class size, class composition and special needs support levels.

“We’ll see how the ruling plays out but it will unpack more fully in September,” Zydyk said.

In the ruling, Justice Sandra Griffin found that the Liberal government infringed on teachers’ bargaining rights in 2002 when it legislatively limited their ability to bargain class size.

The government argued that the legislation gave school boards the ability to organize classes.

But “…it was unclear that this flexibility could not have been achieved through collective bargaining,” Griffin noted.

Teachers “…lost the ability to be involved in decisions which could greatly affect their working conditions.”

SD70 assistant superintendent Greg Smyth was out of town at meetings and unavailable for comment.

But the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association released a frequently asked questions response on their website.

According to the document the decision does not mean a default to pre-2002 collective agreement provisions, and present class size provisions of the school act remains applicable.

As well, that the BCTF is not entitled to redress.

And districts’ don’t have the budget ability to meet the class size limits based on provisions in the 2001 collective agreement.

The government has 12 months to comply with the ruling.

reporter@albernivallenews.com