In his comments to the media, Minister Jeff Johnson says that the Association’s insistence on a “comfort letter” that would prevent changes to legislation, regulation and policy is one of two obstacles to an agreement. He goes so far as to say that the Association’s proposal would “neuter” the legislature and prevent public consultation on reforms to regulations and policy. Is the Association proposing inclusion of a “comfort letter” as part of its proposal and would it “neuter” the legislature?
No, on both counts. The proposal does not include a “comfort letter,” mainly because the government had earlier indicated that this was a stumbling block. Instead the Association has included in sections 8(c) and 8(e) of its proposal a provision that says that if government were to change, without the consent of the Association, the Teaching Profession Act, specifically listed sections of the School Act, teachers’ collective bargaining rights under the Labour Relations Code, the Certification of Teachers Regulation, the Teacher Growth, Supervision and Evaluation Policy, or the Teaching Quality Standard, the framework agreement and the collective agreements concluded under it come to an immediate end.
The legislation, regulations and policy listed all stipulate specific conditions of teachers’ employment that in other jurisdictions or sectors would be bargained into collective agreements. These include provisions about how teachers are paid, sick leave, various types of teacher employment contracts, processes for appealing a termination and more.
If the government wants to lock down teachers for four years, then it cannot expect to be able to arbitrarily and unilaterally change the conditions of their employment. If government wants stability, then it is fair and reasonable to provide stability for teachers. If government does choose to change legislated conditions of teachers’ employment, it is only fair to allow teachers to seek protection through the collective bargaining process.
This provision would not stand in the way of improving education. There are plenty of other, more important priorities that could and should be addressed by the legislature if the Minister is really interested in meaningful educational reform and of course nothing in the Association’s proposal prevents him from talking to any Albertan about anything.