Legal News

School Act Constitutes Arbitrator Jurisdiction

Arbitrator Eric Rice issued an award on August 4, 2002 dismissing a challenge to his jurisdiction by the BC Teachers’ Federation (BCTF). Rice was constituted under section 27.1 of the School Act (enacted by the Public Education Flexibility and Choice Act) to delete from the provincial teachers collective agreement those provisions that conflict with other amendments to section 27 fo the School Act. Those amendments place additional restrictions on items that may form part of a teacher collective agreement in the BC public school system, notably restrictions on class sizes, staffing ratios, case or teaching loads and related matters. BCTF had challenged the arbitrator’s jurisdiction on three grounds:
• his appointment was a breach of the Finanacial Administration Act;
• the manner and terms of his appointment raised a reasonable
apprehension of bias and denied BCTF a fair hearing; and
• his appointment and the extension to September 1, 2002 were
not authorized by statute.
The arbitrator declined to attribute fault for delays in the process to the provincial government or either of the parties. He noted that: “It seems that diligent efforts were made to find an arbitrator but three successive arbitrators quit after meeting with objections from the BCTF.” The arbitration wil proceed to hearing on its merits beginning August 19 or 20, 2002.