BC Teachers’ Federation

Public Education and the British Columbia Provincial Election

Some of this blog’s readers are likely already aware that the Canadian province of British Columbia (where I live) is going to have a provincial general election on May 9.  Lots of issues are being raised in the election campaign: jobs, the cost of housing, natural resources, regional inequities, and campaign financing.

As in any election, education is also an important issue. The platforms of BC’s three major political parties – the Liberals (who, as the party with the most elected representatives in BC’s Legislature, are the current governing party), the New Democratic Party (NDP), and the Green Party – all have promises related to elementary and secondary (K-12) education. That’s heartening to see, because publicly-funded education is an essential part of a democratic, equal-opportunity society. However, the election discussions around BC’s K-12 public education system have not paid much attention to the significant events around that system in the last few years. I think these events should have a higher profile during this election – not just because (more…)

Supreme Court of Canada Decision in the BC Teachers’ Federation Case (Part II)

On November 10, the Supreme Court of Canada delivered an oral decision in the legal dispute between the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) – the union representing teachers in BC’s public school system – and the British Columbia provincial government.

That decision ended a 14-year legal battle between the two parties over the BC government’s decision to pass legislation that removed the language around class size and composition from its collective agreement with the BCTF, and that also excluded those issues from collective bargaining. The BCTF claimed that the government’s actions violated Section 2(d) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which guarantees freedom of association. Two previous Supreme Court of Canada decisions – in the Fraser case and the Health Services case – have established that in the context of labour relations, “freedom of association” includes workers’ rights to form unions and to engage in collective bargaining.

The Supreme Court decision on November 10 was remarkable because (more…)

Supreme Court of Canada Decision in The BC Teachers’ Federation Case (Part I)

This Thursday, the Supreme Court of Canada held its hearing of an appeal by the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation (BCTF), the union that represents teachers in British Columbia’s public school system.

This ongoing case – which started in 2002 – involves several actions by the BC provincial government in its collective bargaining for a contract with the BCTF, primarily around the government’s decision to pass legislation declaring that some items would not be bargained, and removing those same items from the collective agreement that was then in effect. The BCTF opposed both of these changes. Later, there were also issues around the government’s conduct during bargaining.

The BC Supreme Court twice ruled in the BCTF’s favour, once in 2011 and again in 2014. The BC government appealed the 2014 ruling, and the BC Court of Appeal overturned that ruling. The Court of Appeal decision was the basis of the BCTF’s appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada.

I think it’s fair to say that all parties involved with this case expected that a case this complex would entail a lengthy hearing at the Supreme Court, followed by several months for the nine judges to review the arguments and write their decision. However, much to everyone’s surprise, (more…)

Investigative Journalism: The Media Can (and Should) Do More of It

Recently I wrote a post about new information on the anti-union financial disclosure bill being debated in Canada’s Parliament. This new information was collected by two University of Regina researchers, and was mostly collected from publicly available documents. I also recently watched this segment of the Last Week Tonight with John Oliver TV show – a segment that brilliantly dismantles the Miss America Pageant’s claim to be “the world’s largest provider of scholarships to women in the world” [sic]. The information for this segment was also collected from publicly available documents.

Now admittedly the Miss America Pageant’s misrepresenting its scholarship awards doesn’t have the same potential large-scale societal impact as federal legislation, but the reporting of both sets of information has something in common. They’re both good investigative journalism – and neither was done by journalists. (One commentator calls Oliver’s work “investigative comedy”.) So why are comedians and university professors doing the kind of investigative work that media organizations should be doing, but generally aren’t?

From my own experience, I can suggest a couple of reasons why investigative journalism is not (more…)

30 Years of Dysfunction, and Probably More

On September 16, after nearly a week of intense negotiations, British Columbia’s premier, Christy Clark, announced that a new collective agreement had been reached with the BC Teachers’ Federation. The BCTF recommended that its members vote to accept the tentative agreement. While there was some very outspoken opposition to the agreement, 86% of voters supported it, and schools reopened the week of Sept. 22.

In her September 16 statement, Clark, with Education Minister Peter Fassbender at her side, promoted the deal as “historic” and as (more…)

More About the Coalition of BC Businesses and the BC Teachers’ Federation Court Case

This week, the Coalition of BC Businesses was formally granted intervenor status in the BC government’s appeal of the Supreme Court ruling in the government’s bargaining disputes with the BC Teachers’ Federation. (A copy of the Coalition’s “factum” explaining its legal arguments is here, and the Court of Appeal’s written decision to grant intervenor status to the Coalition is here.)

Most of the Coalition’s members are associations whose members are groups in specific industries or with shared interests. The Coalition’s list of member organizations disappeared from its webpage a few days after its press release announcing the application for intervenor status. However, you can find a list of the Coalition’s members here.  As I noted in my previous analysis of the Coalition’s press release, since the announcement one of the Coalition’s member organizations has expressed its disagreement with the application.

After the release of the decision to approve the Coalition as an intervenor, I was contacted (more…)

Is the BC Government Bargaining in Bad Faith?

This week, the British Columbia government announced that if the current strike by the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) extends into the start of the new school year, parents of public school students under the age of 13 will receive $40 per day for as long as the strike lasts. The reaction to this announcement was less than positive. Many parents stated they would sooner see the money go into funding public education or settling a collective agreement with the BCTF, and a University of Victoria economist pointed out how poorly organized the plan seemed to be. But another question that was raised in the discussions of the plan was: in announcing that plan, was the BC government bargaining in bad faith?

It isn’t easy to answer that question with a definitive “yes” or “no”.  And here’s why. (more…)

The BC Public School Employers’ Association and Its Bargaining Dispute with The BC Teachers’ Federation

This week, the British Columbia Public School Employers’ Association (BCPSEA) – the employers’ representative in the current collective agreement negotiations with the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) – released a background document analyzing the BCTF’s most recent bargaining proposals. In the same week,  The Tyee news website featured several past bargaining participants saying that the two parties’ attitudes have always been a barrier to concluding an agreement. In that context, the BCPSEA backgrounder deserves some closer attention, because, in my opinion, it is (more…)

The Coalition of BC Businesses and the BC Teachers’ Federation Court Case

The Coalition of BC Businesses has announced that it has applied for intervenor status in the British Columbia government’s appeal of the BC Supreme Court ruling ordering the government to restore certain language to its collective agreement with the BC Teachers’ Federation. Intervenor status gives an applicant the right to participate in the case proceedings, and to make submissions to the court on the legal issues involved in the case. The full text of the original Supreme Court ruling is here, and here is the text of the Court of Appeal decision staying the implementation of the ruling until the appeal process has been completed.

I don’t have access to the Coalition’s complete application for intervenor status, but I want to make a few comments on (more…)

A Look at the British Columbia Government’s Ad in the Teachers’ Bargaining Dispute

In a high-profile collective bargaining situation, it’s not at all unusual for both unions and employers to try to sway public opinion in their favour. And the current bargaining dispute between the British Columbia Teachers’ Federation (BCTF) and the British Columbia provincial government is no exception. The dispute – which has now escalated into a full-out strike  – has been full of seemingly back-to-back press conferences by each side, and extensive use of social media to spread each side’s messages. However, on Friday, June 20, the government took its public relations campaign to a new level by buying a full-page ad on the front page of Vancouver’s 24 Hours newspaper.

I want to take a closer look at this ad – not only because it appeared in one of Vancouver’s highest-circulation daily newspapers  the day after BC Education Minister Peter Fassbender stated “it is not my intent to bargain in the media” – but also because its content includes
(more…)