B.C. Liberals pushing through teacher bill

Debate on legislation imposing a cooling-off period on the B.C. teachers' dispute is being cut off this week.

Debate on legislation imposing a cooling-off period on the B.C. teachers’ dispute is being cut off this week.

B.C. Liberal house leader Rich Coleman moved to end debate Monday afternoon, and the government majority voted to pass his motion. Coleman said the measure will ensure that Bill 22 will be passed into law by Thursday, ensuring that schools will return to normal operation after spring break.

The government and NDP opposition have agreed to extend sitting hours until 9 p.m. on Tuesday and Wednesday, to provide extra time for clause-by-clause debate on the legislation before it is passed.

NDP house leader John Horgan said the government is refusing to consider his proposal to delay the legislation and seek an independent mediator appointed by the Labour Relations Board.

Bill 22 gives Education Minister George Abbott the authority to appoint a mediator, and restricts any mediated settlement to be within the “net zero” wage mandate imposed across public sector union negotiations in 2010.

The bill also imposes new restrictions on class size and special needs support, declaring the issues off limits to negotiation between the B.C. Teachers’ Association and school districts.

The government has proposed a $165 million fund to supplement special needs support in the next three years. The fund and the new provisions in Bill 22 are an effort to satisfy a B.C. Supreme Court ruling that struck down 2002 legislation taking class size and composition out of the BCTF contract.

The ruling gives the government until April to respond.

Surrey North Delta Leader