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Talks with B.C. teachers break down over class size, composition

Nov 29 2011

The B.C. government has reached another impasse in talks with teachers about class size and composition, the B.C. Teachers' Federation said Monday.

Union president Susan Lambert said the government effectively halted discussions by refusing to consider including class size and composition limits in teacher contracts. She said it views such provisions as a violation of managerial rights and wants the freedom to lay off teachers and cut services.

"That's what they want to be able to do," she said following a late-afternoon media conference.

"They don't want to have any kind of fettering of that through collective agreements that provide for minimal levels of service."

Education Minister George Abbott also expressed disappointment at the impasse.

He said government had proposed a $165-million investment to better support teachers, but the union came back with a more "extreme" position.

"What the union is now suggesting would require as much as a 50 per cent increase in the number of teachers in B.C. at a cost of more than $1 billion to resolve this matter," Abbott said in a statement released late Monday.

The two sides have been in negotiations on the issue since the B.C. Supreme Court in April struck down Bills 27 and 28 as unconstitutional.

The bills, introduced in 2002, removed teachers' rights to bargain class size and composition.

The judge in the case gave the two sides a year to resolve the issues, but no agreement has been reached.

The teachers' interpretation of the court ruling was that the province should restore working and learning conditions in place before the bills came into force.

The government argued that it lost the court challenge because it failed to properly consult with teachers and that it is now doing that.

lkines@timescolonist.com

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