British Columbia's Liberal government plans to appeal a court decision that concluded the province violated the bargaining rights of teachers and attempted to provoke a strike -- a decision the teachers' union and the Opposition New Democrats warned would cast a cloud over contract negotiations.
Education Minister Peter Fassbender announced Tuesday that his government will appeal a court ruling from last week that awarded the BC Teachers' Federation $2 million and struck down a law related to their collective agreement.
Fassbender insisted the prolonged court battle won't impede contract negotiations with teachers.
But the president of the teachers' union, Jim Iker, was not so optimistic. Iker said the appeal signals that the Liberal government wants to continue fighting with teachers rather than negotiate.
"Today, with this appeal, Premier Christy Clark and Minister Fassbender have shown that we cannot trust them," said B.C. Teachers' Federation president Jim Iker.
"Christy Clark owes all of us -- teachers, students and parents -- an apology. By appealing Justice (Susan) Griffin's ruling, it's clear that they haven't changed."
Fassbender said allowing the ruling to stand would be unaffordable and would create disruptions in schools. He estimated the cost of the ruling would be "upwards of $1 billion."
The education minister said the government wants clarity and stability -- for teachers, families, students and taxpayers and the government -- when it comes to developing and maintaining B.C.'s education system.
He said he wants contract negotiations to continue toward a long-term deal, which the premier has previously said should be for 10 years.
"I'm not declaring war," said Fassbender. "The premier is clear: we want to work together. We want to find a solution."
Last week, a B.C. Supreme Court judge ruled legislation introduced in 2012 that removed class size and composition from contract negotiations was unconstitutional.
The law was introduced in the midst of heated negotiations with teachers. A similar law was struck down a year earlier, but the recent ruling says the government then introduced near-identical legislation and bargained in bad faith in an attempt to provoke a strike.