Teachers realized some significant gains this past year, but with a new government in Alberta, a reformed political perspective on public education has also been ushered in, said executive secretary Dennis Theobald.
Speaking to delegates of the Annual Representative Assembly, Theobald indicated that while core issues such as class size and funding for inclusive learning continue to plague the teaching profession, there are many new challenges on the horizon now that the United Conservative Party is in government.
“Our path forward is not entirely clear,” Theobald said.
Theobald drew attention to teachers’ recently ratified central table bargaining agreement and cautioned that recent developments involving the United Nurses of Alberta indicate a showdown may be brewing for teachers’ salary arbitration.
“Members will be aware that, acting upon instructions of government, Alberta Health Services has refused to engage in the salary arbitration provided for in its multi-year collective agreement with the United Nurses of Alberta,” Theobald said.
“Within this year we will be preparing to bargain once more at the central table but under even less favourable political and economic circumstances.”
The ATA is currently preparing for salary arbitration that is slated to begin in September, as agreed to during central table bargaining. Theobald informed delegates that the UNA will be going before the Labour Relations Board on May 31 to uphold their right to free and fair arbitration as provided for in their collective agreement.
“In doing so, they are defending the rights of all unionized public sector workers in this province. Their struggle is our struggle and the Alberta Teachers’ Association stands beside the United Nurses of Alberta in this,” he said.
Preparing for an uncertain future was an underlying theme throughout Theobald’s address, which also drew attention to potential difficulties for teachers in future negotiations.
“Within this year we will be preparing to bargain once more at the central table,” he said, “but under even less favourable political and economic circumstances.” ❚