Dirk Meissner, BC teachers want immediate action on Supreme Court win, Clark says time needed, The Canadian Press, Herald News, Nov 14 2016


The president of the teacher's union in British Columbia said Monday he expects more teachers in classrooms as early as January after a Supreme Court of Canada decision that affects class sizes.

But Premier Christy Clark said implementing the ruling will take some time.

The Supreme Court agreed last week with the B.C. Teacher's Federation and overturned legislation from 2002 that prevented the union from negotiating certain provisions in its collective agreement, such as class sizes and the number of students with special needs in a classroom. 

The court ruled the government must allow the union to negotiate the issues.

"It will mean a massive human undertaking because it will ... involve several thousand of teachers having to be rehired," said federation president Glen Hansman. "They will need to be doing something sooner rather than later."

He said he expects the government to start hiring more teachers for the start of the second semester at many secondary schools in January.

"We should aspire to that," said Hansman. "It is doable. Certainly, we have a lot of members who are languishing on on-call lists who are available for full-time employment."

The union said the legislation that was overturned by the Supreme Court allowed the government to underfund education for 14 years. Hansman said teachers want the government to bring back contract provisions to reduce class sizes and offer more support for students with special needs.

The teachers' union estimates the court decision will cost the government between $250 million and $350 million annually, he said.

Clark, who is in London, England, to accept an award for the preservation of the Great Bear Rainforest, said she expects the government and teachers to begin talks on class size and the composition of classes.

"I know there is a lot of speculation about how much this will cost, but I would say this is the most important investment that we make as a society, so let's make it," she said.

The premier said the government will put money in the next budget for the Supreme Court decision, but she wouldn't speculate on the cost, beyond the $100 million a year that has already been placed in a contingency fund in recent budgets.

"We do need to make sure the money is there," she said.

Clark said she cannot guarantee classroom changes will be in place for the start of next school year in September.

"I think we all hope it will be," she said. "It really does depend on how the negotiations go."