Supreme Court backs B.C. teachers’ right to bargain class sizes

By James Peters
November 10, 2016 - 1:31pm Updated: November 11, 2016 - 12:49am

KAMLOOPS — The president of the Kamloops-Thompson Teachers Association says the Supreme Court of Canada ruling that restores class size and composition to bargaining between teachers and the province will have a big impact locally.

The ruling ended a 14 year battle between the BC Teachers Federation and the province that began in 2002 when the Liberal government stripped class size and composition from bargaining.

David Komljenovic says special needs students in the Kamloops-Thompson School District need more supports.

"Class composition is basically the supports that are there for the students," said Komljenovic. "We have very complex needs. There are a lot of students who have special needs designation and they're not getting any support. They don't have support workers, they don't have sufficient learning assistants and this decision would restore a lot of that back to what existed from 2002."

"Our class sizes have been climbing. This is probably one of the worst years we've ever had. Teachers are feeling very stressed. The biggest stressor is meeting the needs of children. Class composition I would say is the biggest issue, but class sizes are definitely climbing."

Komljenovic concedes the changes won't happen immediately.

"We do realize there may be a time period of implementation, but we do know that the government is going to have to put a fair bit of money back into the education system and that means the hiring of a lot of staff compared to the 2002 levels."

"This is very clear direction of the courts of what government needs to do. What we're hoping is that the bargaining process doesn't become a long, drawn out process. We hope that it's a quick process about putting language back into the contract, making it enforceable and getting some money back into the system so kids can get the support they need."

"Teachers are elated by the decision. I think we're in disbelief. We can't believe that it's taken all this time, but finally we've won. We have vindication from the highest court of the country that the removal of those rights was unconstitutional."

"The fortunate decision of the Supreme Court of Canada is that they restore the original decision. Government cannot just come back, negotiate and restrip the language. So what we do know is that there are better days ahead."

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