The latest B.C. Supreme Court ruling by Justice Susan Griffin has cast a spotlight on the public sector bargaining antics of the B.C. Liberal government.
Justice Griffin found:
The province must pay the B.C.Teachers Federation $2 million to cover damages from the court case. Of course, the B.C. Liberal Party should pay this, as it was just playing politics with the teachers to gain support leading up to the last strike. But we know it will be you and me.
Griffin said: "It is appropriate and just to award damages against the government, pursuant to Section 24 of the Charter . . . in order to provide an effective remedy in relation to the government's unlawful action."
And here we thought it was the BCTF that was engaging in "unlawful action."
The judge went on to conlude the government was bargaining in bad faith. In other words, it never intended to reach an agreement but would simply impose legislation. Maybe we should ask former education minister George Abbott if this is true.
I have heard many media complaints that the BCTF held up bargaining. Not so.
Griffin said: "The court has concluded that the government did not negotiate in good faith with the union after the Bill 28 decision. One of the problems was that the government representatives were pre-occupied by another strategy. Their strategy was to put such pressure on the union that it would provoke a strike . . . The government representatives thought this would give government the opportunity to gain political support for imposing legislation on the union."
In a precedent-setting decision, Griffin ruled that legislation to be unconstitutional.
"In Bill 22, the government re-enacted legislation identical to that first branch of what was previously declared unconstitutional, namely, the deletion and prohibition of hundreds of collective agreement terms on working conditions," reads the decision. "When legislation is struck down as unconstitutional, it means it was never valid, from the date of its enactment. This means that the legislatively deleted terms in the teachers' collective agreement have been restored retroactively and can also be the subject of future bargaining."
If the government thought bargaining was hard before and that it could readily impose legislation, it was dead wrong.
Many pundits vilified the BCTF as the big bad union out for itself in collective bargaining. But now, the government must find some way to get back to the 2002 collective agreement with language on specific class size, support staff, and challenged students per class.Â
Perhaps a tone of conciliation would be helpful, instead of launching a meaningless appeal. More taxpayer dollars down the drain.
Maybe an apology from the government would be in order?
As a friend said, "I have never understood why the government stripped contract language that was helpful to the education of our youth. A whole generation has been affected in the last 12 years."
This government has done a real hatchet job on the public school system in British Columbia. Trustees have had to "hold the fort" again and again as funding was inadeqaute or services were cut. At times, they have had to make heart-rending decisions that have increased costs toÂ families.
And this government has done a hatchet job on teachers, implying all sorts of negative things that are simply not true. This has been picked up like candy propaganda by the media.
Perhaps the Liberals should now have to instititute a public relations campaign to restore good faith in the public school system.
I think we are about to see Christy Clark's other side now. The side that doesn't just grin, laugh and get elected but the side that hates losing.Â
Her latest discussions indicate the government is considering appealing the ruling. Is that what you want? More money spent in the courts and less on our youth?
Reg Volk writes on politics and local issues. Email: