"It's time governments across the country stop wasting time on attacking unions and workers and get back to working on critical issues that will benefit our communities." — Larry Brown, NUPGE President
Vancouver (17 Nov. 2016) — In another victory for workers' rights, the Supreme Court of Canada has ordered the B.C. government to restore the contract provisions around class size and composition, including the number of specialists needed to care for children with special needs, which stripped from the collective agreement of thousands of teachers.
Supreme Court rules B.C. government violated teachers' constitutional rights of teachers
The B.C. Teachers Federation (BCTF) has been fighting the unilateral decision since it took place in 2002. The case made its way to the Supreme Court over the last 14 years, and on November 10, the justices found that the provincial government legislation was unconstitutional.
"This is a great decision coming from the Supreme Court in upholding the rights of workers in B.C.," said Larry Brown, President of the National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE). "Winning the right to include important learning and working conditions in the collective agreement is an incredible success. It took a long time, but it is worth it." NUPGE was one of the interveners in the case.
Free collective bargaining necessary in a democracy
It's not the first time Liberal legislation in B.C. has been struck down by the SCC. At the same time the provincial government introduced the education legislation, it also introduced legislation affecting health care workers' bargaining rights. In that case, health care unions challenged the legislation until, in 2007, the Supreme Court ruled that parts of the legislation were unconstitutional. It gave the government one year to reach a settlement. It cost the government $85 million to settle.
As the B.C. Government and Service Employees' Union (BCGEU/NUPGE) said in a congratulatory statement on its website, "Teachers' working conditions are students' learning conditions, and by insisting that teachers have a say in class size and composition at the bargaining table, the BCTF has ensured the best outcomes for our kids. Teachers are in their classrooms every single day because they care, and they are best placed to know what's good for their students."
Case is another example of governments ignoring the rights of workers
The ruling itself reads: "Legislation that is enacted without consultation with the employees, which invalidates collective agreement terms and prohibits future collective bargaining on subjects that were previously the subject of collective bargaining, clearly infringes s. 2 (d) of the Charter, as held in Health Services: see paras. 119-122, 128,182. I am persuaded that in enacting ss. 8, 9 and 15 of PEFCA, and s. 5 of the Amendment Act, the government did all these things, and this constituted a violation of the teachers' freedom of association guaranteed by s. 2 (d) of the Charter."
"This ruling isn't just about teachers in B.C.," Brown said. "This ruling once again confirms that workers have the right to free collective bargaining. These rights are guaranteed to Canadians in the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. It's time governments across the country stop wasting time on attacking unions and workers and get back to working on critical issues that will benefit all communities."
The National Union is a leader in fighting for worker's rights in Canada and around the world. You can find more about the NUPGE campaign at Labour Rights are Human Rights.
The National Union of Public and General Employees (NUPGE) is one of Canada's largest labour organizations with over 370,000 members. Our mission is to improve the lives of working families and to build a stronger Canada by ensuring our common wealth is used for the common good. NUPGE