A local teachers union rep says he was surprised by a BC Court of Appeal ruling last week that favoured the government in a decade-long court battle over teachers’ bargaining rights.
“As individuals and as different levels of union officials and collectively as an organization, we’ve been up and down constantly,” said Nelson and District Teachers’ Association president Paul Boscariol.
“We were buoyed by the first two decisions, but this one here came out of left field. No one anticipated this,”
He said the battle would have continued to the Supreme Court of Canada either way because the government surely would have appealed had the decision gone the other way, but now they’re obliged to return $2 million they had been awarded previously.
The conflict began in 2002 when the government removed certain bargaining rights from the teachers’ collective agreement. The BC Supreme Court has twice ruled in the teachers’ favour.
Boscariol said the long fight has been exhausting.
“It’s pretty sad because there are a number of teachers whose entire careers have been nothing but turmoil.”
Boscariol said the outcome of this court battle could have huge implications.
“It calls into question the validity of contracts. It was my understanding that a contract is a legal binding document signed by two parties or multiple parties. That’s what I understood, and then they swooped in and said ‘no, we can do this’.”
Boscariol said it’s not a given that the case will continue, as the Supreme Court only heard eight of the 80 cases brought to them last year.
“It’s interesting that it wasn’t unanimous,” said Nelson-Creston MLA Michelle Mungall, noting that she was wasn’t worried by the BC Court of Appeal decision, as she has assumed all along that the case would go to the Supreme Court.
“I’m by no means a legal representative, but I want to make sure that in Canada, as a democratic country, we see laws that uphold rights for collective bargaining. We’ll have to see whether or not this case does that.”