Vancouver — We’ve heard a lot of rhetoric about clause E80 in the teachers’s dispute. Today, B.C. Teachers’ Union president Jim Iker said it’s one of the biggest impediments to the two sides reaching a deal.
Here’s some more information about what it is and what it means to both parties.
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According to the British Columbia Public School Employers’ Association Framework for Settlement, proposal E80 deals with the “learning and working conditions” in the classroom. It’s about issues we hear so often about: class size, class composition and specialist teachers.
These matters were before the courts previously. In 2011, the B.C. Supreme Court said the provincial government had infringed on the teachers’ rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights of Freedom. The court said the government interfered with the teachers’ collective bargaining with legislation that voided terms of a negotiated collective agreement, according to the judgment. The legislation was declared invalid, but the courts gave the government 12 months to figure out a solution.
In 2012 they enacted similar legislation and the B.C. Teachers’ Federation took the case to court again. In January of 2014, Madam Justice Griffin released this decision. In it, she says “there is no basis for distinguishing the new legislation from the previous findings of this Court,” and went on to explain the new legislation still interferes with the Charter rights of teachers. The government has appealed the case and both parties are awaiting a decision.
WATCH: Former crown prosecutor Sandy Garossino speaks to Global News about E80 and binding arbitration
“The two sides are playing the court case very differently,” Vancouver Sun political columnist Vaughn Palmer told Global News. He says the court put language back into the contract that gives the union more say over classroom staffing levels and size.
E80 sets out the BCPSEA’s proposal on these issues. At the very end, it reads: “these provisions supersede and replace all previous Articles that addressed class size, composition and staffing levels.”
Former crown prosecutor Sandy Garossino says she understands the government’s viewpoint.
“The teachers are of the view that this would eliminate on their ability to rely on [the court] decision. It’s the government’s view, and I think there’s some weight to this, that the impact of court decision was class size and composition was always a matter for good faith negotiation and they can’t escape that.”
“The impact of the ruling doesn’t cover future contracts.”
However, she said the strength of the Supreme Court’s ruling should be considered when analyzing current negotiations.
“They’re going to say all kind of things about why [the ruling] is in error…I can’t emphasize enough is anyone has to do is pick up that ruling…and go through it,” said Garossino.
“Over and over and over again, she goes through a litany of examples of where the government really never intended to negotiate in good faith with the union at all. It’s very hard to get past that ruling, and it really does in my view cast a completely different view on the nature of the negotiations that are going on now. The credibility of the government is certainly in question.”
A BCTF spokesperson told Global News it’s this clause that’s the source of all the controversy. He says that it’s the government’s attempt to negotiate out of their court loss.
“Their proposal, E80, would ‘supersede and replace’ all previous class size, class composition, and specialist teacher provisions,” said Iker, in his press conference today.
Palmer says the government’s position is since the court said their decision is not clad in stone, they feel the issue can be negotiated.
In a press conference today, Premier Christy Clark called class composition, “the one issue that is most vital to the future of education in British Columbia.” But she said it can’t be the focus of all the attention at the bargaining table until the two sides are closer in wages and benefits.
“I’ve looked at that one from every angle,” said Palmer. “I don’t see a compromised position on that one. Even if they could settle everything else, I don’t know how the hell you settle that.”