01/27/2012 12:44 EST | Updated 03/28/2012 05:12 EDT

B.C. teachers wear black to protest lost rights

Teachers throughout B.C. are being urged to wear black on Friday to mourn the 10th anniversary of the passage of two bills that limited teachers' bargaining rights.

The BCTF says bills 27 and 28 enabled the Liberal government to cut $336 million annually from public education and "so severely curtailed free collective bargaining rights that it could not sustain a challenge under the Charter of Rights."

"Over a single weekend in January 2002, the BC Liberals wiped out decades of advocacy and sacrifice by teachers and launched a decade of cutbacks, school closures and untold damage to teaching and learning conditions," said B.C. Teachers' Federation president Susan Lambert.

"In declaring today a 'Dark Day for Public Education in B.C.,' teachers are sending a message to government that it’s time to respect bargaining rights and come to the table to reach a fair and reasonable agreement with teachers."

"We hope that parents will recognize that this government has failed to fully fund education, that they see the dedication of teachers who for over 10 years have been fighting tirelessly to have this legislation repealed," said Surrey Teachers' Association president Denise Moffat.

The B.C. Public School Employers' Association says teachers are permitted to wear black in protest as long as they don't discuss their political views with students.

Bill 27, the Public Education Flexibility and Choice Act, prohibited the inclusion of certain items in teacher collective agreements, including staffing, class size and composition limits.

Bill 28, the Education Services Collective Agreement Act, amalgamated school districts and local bargaining units, imposing one collective agreement on teachers in newly amalgamated districts that had previously been covered by two or three local agreements.

In April 2011, the B.C. Supreme Court found the bills to be unconstitutional and invalid.