Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA) President Carol Henderson announced today that the ATA’s Provincial Executive Council, comprising teacher representatives from across Alberta, voted unanimously to reject an offer made last Wednesday by Minister of Education Jeff Johnson to settle teacher collective agreements for four years.
“The minister’s offer is unacceptable,” said Henderson. “There are no provisions for placing reasonable limits on the amount of time that teachers can be assigned to work by their employer boards, and what provisions there are for limiting the amount of time teachers are in the classroom are full of loopholes. In financial terms, it is actually worse for teachers than what he proposed in December. Finally, there still remains the need to guarantee stability for teachers just as it guarantees stability for school boards and the province.”
Henderson noted, “Teachers have to prepare for larger, more complex classes and need time to improve their teaching and student learning. Without dealing effectively with issues of assignable and instructional time, the minister’s offer would simply not receive approval from teachers working in each and every school board, a necessary condition for it to be implemented.”
A letter containing what teachers viewed as a thinly veiled threat to implement salary rollbacks and reductions in teaching staff, in the event that the minister does not get a deal on his terms, accompanied the offer. In response, Henderson observed, “Teachers do not respond well to ultimatums.”
She emphasized that the Association has been working for months to reach an agreement with government. On November 30, the Association went so far as to propose a solution that would have responded to government’s fiscal issues by freezing salary grids for two years and providing for increases of 1 per cent in year 3 and 3 per cent in year 4. “Our proposal offered flexible and practical solutions to teachers’ workload issues, and guaranteed stability for students, parents, teachers and the province,” said Henderson. Johnson rejected this offer.
So where to now? Henderson pointed out that teacher bargaining units are still actively engaged in bargaining with school boards across the province. “School boards exist for a reason, and local teachers are working with them to negotiate collective agreements as has been the norm,” she said. “However, it is true that the minister of education’s comments about bargaining and his stated intention to review potential settlements have slowed down the process.”
Henderson says that the solution is to let local collective bargaining work. “We’ve said no to the minister’s offer, but yes to collective bargaining, and yes to fair solutions with locally elected school boards.”
Video of Carol Henderson addressing members of the media at a news conference
President Carol Henderson speaking notes