Public Union Strife Roils British Columbia

     VANCOUVER, B.C. (CN) – The British Columbia government and the province’s teachers’ union have struck a deal ending, until after the next election, a year of labor strife, but the union claims the province is still enforcing a law that restricts collective bargaining, even though the law was found unconstitutional last year.
     The British Columbia Teachers’ Federation sued the province in B.C. Supreme Court.
     The teachers claim that the provincial government, led by the union-unfriendly B.C. Liberals, failed to bring legislation in line with the constitution after it was declared unconstitutional last year.
     The decision was suspended for a year, and the province agreed to “model the discussions” on successful negotiations with healthcare workers a few years ago. But the Teachers’ Federation claims the government didn’t live up to the deal, and stuck to its hard-line stances on class sizes and net-zero wage increases.
     “In contrast, at no time did the government indicate to the BCTF that it was prepared to agree to repeal the unconstitutional legislation, restore negotiation rights prohibited by the unconstitutional legislation or compensate teachers harmed by the unconstitutional legislation,” the complaint states.
     The union claims the government failed to repeal or amend the legislation by the 12-month deadline, but passed new legislation with “identical terms,” which the court already had found unconstitutional.
     The new legislation provided for a mediator, appointed unilaterally by the government, to whom the union objected due to a conflict.
     “The defendant appointed a mediator who had previously written a report for government which supported the government’s bargaining objectives,” the complaint states. “In addition, the mediator had been actively involved in drafting the legislation which was to govern the mediation process.”
     The union wants the “Impugned Legislation, Regulations and Cabinet Directives” deemed unconstitutional under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, because they “infringed the rights of the plaintiff and its members to engage in free collective bargaining.”
     The teachers are represented by John Rogers of the Victory Square Law Office.

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