Re. "Labour disputes are the law of the land," (Letters, The Tri-City News, Feb. 8).
The comments of Jim Watson in his letter to the editor are patently false and require correction.
Mr. Watson states that the BC Public School Employers' Association (BCPSEA) "unilaterally remove[d] class size and composition language" from the teachers' collective agreement and, further, that "the courts have twice (once on appeal) found BCPSEA's action illegal."
In fact, the provincial government in 2002 determined that school organization issues such as class size and composition should not be the subject of collective bargaining. The government enacted legislation (known as Bill 28) to move these provisions into public policy by including them in the School Act.
Last April, the BC Supreme Court, in a decision arising from the challenge to this legislative action brought by the BC Teachers' Federation (BCTF), found that certain aspects of the government's action were unconstitutional. The court's decision was largely based on its finding that the BCTF was not consulted properly prior to the legislation being enacted.
The court gave the government one year from the date of its decision to address the repercussions of the decision. (Representatives of the provincial government have subsequently been engaged in consultation with the BCTF).
The BCTF then applied to the court for "clarification" of the court's decision. In October, the court rejected that application, stating that there was nothing that required clarification and further observing that the BCTF even conceded in its arguments that there was nothing for the court to clarify.
Mr. Watson further alleges that, "The basis for the court's condemnation of BCPSEA's practice was that it found irrefutable evidence that the government was secretly directing BCPSEA's efforts at collective bargaining. In other words, BCPSEA was a puppet of the government."
The court said nothing of the kind. In fact, the court explicitly rejected this argument, noting that while BCPSEA sought policy direction from government in order to inform its bargaining strategy, there was simply no evidence that the government acted in concert with BCPSEA to negotiate in bad faith in the months leading up to the legislation.
We invite your readers to read the court's decisions, as well as other factual information related to the current round of bargaining between BCPSEA and the BCTF, at www.bcpsea.bc.ca.
Melanie Joy, chair, BCPSEA board of directors