They’re off to the big leagues now. The Supreme Court of Canada has agreed to hear the BC Teachers’ Federation’s case, arguing it was unconstitutional for the province to strip class size and composition provisions out of their collective agreement.
Famously, the Supreme Court never says why it chooses to hear the cases it does. Only about three per cent of would-be appeals make the cut but the supremes tend to opt for cases that address major questions about our fundamental freedoms.
The basic question here centres on to what extent can teachers freely negotiate these types of working conditions into their contracts and whether governments have the ability to opt out of contracts when it becomes politically expedient.
And the Supreme Court justices’ ruling will become the law of the land, so no doubt, public sector unions and all three levels of government Canada-wide will be watching the case closely.
Without getting into the minutia of the legal arguments or even whether smaller class sizes are a benefit to students, it will be nice to have some level of closure. Every round of contract negotiations between the BCTF and the province and every painful labour dispute since 2002 has been coloured by this unfinished business.
Thankfully, things between the two sides appear to be more collegial now but this acrimonious chapter in the relationship between B.C.’s government and its teachers can’t be closed until the court has ruled.
No matter what the outcome, we’re glad to see this appeal will be heard at the highest level. A battle this long deserves a definitive end.
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