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B.C. Court of Appeal sides with province in dispute over teachers' bargaining rights

In 2002 legislation was passed that removed class size limits in schools in British Columbia. That legislation, called Bill 28, was deemed unconstitutional in 2011 because it stripped teachers' right to collectively bargain to have class sizes limited.

Today, the B.C. Teachers' Federation is still fighting for the right to bargain on class size and composition, and the dispute could be heard by the Supreme Court of Canada. However, it remains to be seen whether the high court will agree to hear the case.

The dispute now centers on legislation that was introduced in 2012. According to the B.C. Teachers' Federation, the provincial government violated teachers' constitutional rights by introducing Bill 22, which temporarily limited the teachers' right to bargain class size and composition.

After two lower courts sided with the teachers, the British Columbia Court of Appeal sided with the province, saying that the teachers' bargaining rights were not violated because the government consulted with teachers prior to the introduction of Bill 22.

According to the most recent judgment, "Between the consultations and the collective bargaining leading up to the legislation, teachers were afforded a meaningful process in which to advance their collective aspirations. Their freedom of association was respected."

The judgment overturns a previous ruling by B.C. Supreme Court Justice Susan Griffin. In 2014 Justice Griffin ruled that the provincial government did not consult with teachers in good faith before Bill 22 was introduced.

In terms of precedence, the case is particularly important because it pits government policy against collective agreements that are already in place.

For more on legal issues related to negotiating collective agreements, please see Overholt Law's labour relations overview.

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