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BCTF awarded $2 million in damages after court win

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) – BC public school teachers are celebrating a court ruling against the BC government.

A judge has restored some collective agreement provisions that were stripped years ago.

It’s the second time the courts have ruled the government’s move was unconstitutional.

This involves legislation first brought in by the province in 2002 that took away gains made by the union on measures like class size and composition.

Today’s ruling by a BC Supreme Court judge has prompted Jim Iker of the BC Teachers Federation to call it a good day. “Our students can now look forward to, in the future, having smaller class sizes and more access to specialist teachers that they have been denied access to because of the under-funding of our education system.”

The court had ruled in 2011 the original legislation was unconstitutional and gave the province a year to figure out the repercussions of the ruling.

But the judge says the government “enacted virtually identical legislation in Bill-22,” which has also now been ruled unconstitutional.

Along with striking down the legislation, the court has ordered the government must pay the union damages of $2 million.

Iker says it’s the reinstatement of collective agreement provisions that’s most important to them. “We believe the best way to meet the needs of our students are in smaller classes as well as the ability for us to have access to specialist teachers.”

The education minister declined comment until the ministry reviews this court decision.

The ruling comes as the union continues to negotiate a new contract with the government.

Iker says there’s been some progress but the government needs to provide more funding. “We encourage government to come to the table with a fair and reasonable offer so we can conclude that agreement at the bargaining table, and that’s my hope.”

He says the sides have some meetings scheduled in February and early March.

One local school board still has some serious concerns.

Patti Bacchus with the Vancouver School Board doesn’t know the details of how the two million dollars in damages will be awarded the union. “How it will be dispersed. My concern of course is that it should not be coming out of school board budgets…that any award should be coming form the province and be funded directly by the province.”

The class size issue even led one Chilliwack shop teacher to take the drastic step of resigning this year. Today Eric Munshaw explained why. “We are expected to supervise the safe, effective education of kids in our classes and we had a paradigm shift with Bill-C33 allowing classes to move from the historic norm of 24.”