In this first round of local bargaining under the new two-tiered bargaining regime, local bargaining is proceeding slowly but with gains for teachers. The Public Education Collective Bargaining Act mandates that the parties for central table bargaining (the Alberta Teachers' Association and the Teachers’ Employer Bargaining Association) negotiate a list of matters that can be negotiated locally between the individual school boards and the Association on behalf of teachers employed by that school board. Local bargainers are attempting to squeeze out the largest gains from that local list of matters.
With 36 memoranda of agreement having been achieved, the majority of gains have come in leaves of absence. Local bargaining cannot increase the number of days of personal leave because this is a central table matter, but other improvements can be bargained locally such as accumulation of the leave from year to year or the removal of restrictions.
While only a few bargaining units have achieved the removal of restrictions, several have gained the ability to accumulate personal leave days. Teachers have also seen gains in family medical and family needs leaves, like increased number of days and more flexibility in who the leave can be used for. At the beginning of this round, only one collective agreement included family needs leave (used to attend to both the medical and nonmedical needs of a family member, usually a spouse, child or parent), and now 14 agreements will include that provision.
Local bargaining for administrators is resulting in the achievement or expansion of lieu day entitlements. The legislated framework agreement of 2013 introduced these days for principals (two days, at the time) but they only applied while the legislation was in effect, ending Aug. 31, 2016.
As well, local bargainers are finding some success in improving the structure of principal allowance formulas in order, for example, to increase allowances at small schools to deal with inequity between schools or to recognize increased responsibility in particular positions.
There has been some uptake on local professional development funds, with a few funds being increased and one existing fund being turned over to the local to control, rather than the board. Also, in PD, a couple of agreements have included guarantees of teacher-directed PD time during one or more of the designated “PD days.” This will allow teachers dedicated time to pursue their individual teacher professional growth plans.
The vast majority of local agreements include improvements for substitute teachers, including notice of cancellation (or pay in lieu of notice), no supervision before the first class of an assignment, and paid time if the substitute is injured on the job. In one collective agreement, substitutes with enough service will be paid the daily substitute rate for the two days of teachers’ convention beginning next year. In another agreement, substitute teachers will attend and be paid for one district PD day.
As usual, some bargaining units are having a more difficult time than others, and currently 25 bargaining units are still in negotiations. Of those, four have requested the assistance of a government-appointed mediator. In some of those bargaining units the employers are seeking significant concessions, and in two bargaining units the Association and the school boards have taken disputes to the Labour Relations Board. While we are expecting more settlements in these units, some teachers may be without an agreement into the fall. ❚
For more information on local bargaining, please contact your bargaining unit’s Teacher Welfare Committee (formerly Economic Policy Committee).