On April 20, 2004, the BC Government introduced Bill 19 – the Education Services Collective Agreement Amendment Act, 2004. The proposed legislation implements the arbitration award of Arbitrator Eric Rice: BCPSEA and BCTF, (unreported), August 30, 2002 (the “Award”).
In 2002, Arbitrator Rice was appointed under Section 27.1 of the School Act. This section required the appointment of an arbitrator to determine whether there were any provisions in the teachers’ collective agreement that were inconsistent with amendments to the School Act prohibiting the parties from negotiating class size and staffing level issues. Arbitrator Rice concluded that there were a number of provisions requiring amendment in order to comply with the new provisions of the School Act.
The BC Teachers’ Federation appealed the Award to the British Columbia Supreme Court on a number of grounds, including:
- the Arbitrator was improperly appointed;
- the Arbitrator was biased; and
- the Arbitrator failed to properly apply certain sections of the School Act when determining whether the collective agreement was inconsistent with the School Act.
On January 22, 2004, the Court rejected the BCTF’s arguments concerning the Arbitrator’s appointment and bias but accepted the union’s arguments concerning the Arbitrator’s interpretation and application of the provisions of the School Act. On this basis, the Court quashed the Award.
The effect of Bill 19 is to reinstate Arbitrator Rice’s Award and amend the collective agreement provisions identified in the Award effective July 1, 2002. Bill 19 passed third reading on April 22, 2004 and is expected to receive Royal Assent by April 30, 2004.