Teachers file suit against Bills 27 and 28

British Columbia Teachers' Federation News Release, 30 May 2002

Government faces another legal challenge to its extreme agenda

The British Columbia Teachers' Federation today filed suit in B.C. Supreme Court challenging Liberal laws that imposed a contract on teachers, gutted key provisions of their collective agreement, and will result in dramatic cuts to educational services to students.

BCTF President David Chudnovsky said teachers are taking this significant legal step because they take seriously their duty to defend public education, which is under attack by the Campbell government.

We believe that Bills 27 and 28 are draconian pieces of legislation that must not go unchallenged, Chudnovsky said. These bills destroy the legacy of generations of teachers who have struggled to improve learning conditions in B.C. schools.

Bill 27, the Education Services Collective Agreement Act, and Bill 28, the Public Education Flexibility and Choice Act, contain provisions that go far beyond the employers' final demands on key issues at the bargaining table.

It now is illegal in the province of British Columbia to negotiate lower class sizes, guarantees of specialist teachers, and increased support for students with special needs, Chudnovsky said. On top of that is the forced amalgamation of some local contracts, unilateral changes to the school calendar provisions, and other restrictions on our bargaining rights.

In the statement of claim, the Federation contends that by voiding essential features of the contract and prohibiting teachers from negotiating improvements for themselves and for students, the legislation leaves these matters to the sole and unilateral determination of the employers. This is the antithesis of the rule of law.

The BCTF claims that Bills 27 and 28 violate the constitutional principle of the rule of law. The bills also violate rights protected under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, including freedom of association, freedom of expression, equality, and liberty and security of the person. In addition, the bills unlawfully expropriate protections and job benefits without compensation.

The Federation is claiming damages for all 45,000 teachers' loss of important rights and benefits, and for up to 1,900 teachers who will lose their jobs as a direct result of the introduction and passage of this legislation.

Teachers are incredibly angry at this government's attacks on public education. We will use all the tools at hand to defend it, Chudnovsky said. That includes educational campaigns, political action, and legal challenges.

He noted that the BCTF is only one of several unions and civil society groups that have challenged the government's extreme agenda on constitutional and other grounds.

Nurses, health care workers, community social services workers, college instructors, and teachers all believe that the B.C. Liberals have enacted unjust and illegal legislation that must be reversed, Chudnovsky said. We are confident that the courts will see the justice of our claim.