On many levels Madam Justice Susan Griffin's decision is extraordinary. On its face it restores teacher working conditions and rights back to 2002. While the media has caught on to the $2 million fine, there has been little analysis of the practical effect of this ruling.
It will be the restoration of collective agreement language and the resolution of the thousands of individual grievances that will truly improve teachers' working conditions and students' learning conditions in this province. The $2 million in damages is a paltry consideration by comparison.
On a global level, the decision reaffirms freedom of association rights and the rights of teacher unions to bargain fundamental working conditions. This is a landmark decision for teachers and their students but also for every worker. This decision will become part of the fabric of jurisprudence that shapes our values as Canadians and accords unions the respect and support they deserve.
However this decision does more. It severely criticizes the actions of a sitting government. It may be unprecedented in this regard in B.C.'s history but the criticism is richly deserved. No other provincial government that I know of has so flagrantly and persistently violated the Charter rights of its citizens.
Justice Griffin states that government was so pre-occupied with its own re-election interests in provoking a full-scale teacher strike that it failed to negotiate in good faith with the union.
A rash Langley newspaper editorial Wednesday suggests the judge made this decision without a base of evidence. As the only person to observe every minute of testimony before the court I can assure you there was ample written documented evidence of this pre-occupation.
To suggest a Supreme Court judge of the stature and wisdom of Justice Griffin would decide in absence of evidence is the height of ignorant arrogance. But this is also what our premier is saying when she states that government has a different view of the facts of the case and is considering appealing.
The facts of the case are clear: the rhetoric of government of seeking labour peace and stability and of providing parents and students with flexibility and choice is duplicitous. The intention was to rob the system of the funding it needs and to use teachers as scapegoats in the quest to get re-elected.
Far from "the highest funding ever," the B.C. Liberals now are claiming restoration of our bargaining language will mean a re-investment in public education of significant funding. They now have to admit publicly that their rhetoric of highest funding ever was a manipulation and deception.
There is a strong correlation between the presence of strong teacher unions and the presence of high quality education systems. Unions in general improve the quality of life in communities where they are strong. Research has shown that such communities have fewer workplace accidents, lower crime rates, healthier citizens among many other positive factors. With this decision, Justice Griffin has restated the positive affirmation of unionism envisioned by our freedom of association rights in our Canadian constitution.