Fourteen bargaining units of the Alberta Teachers’ Association remain unsettled in local bargaining even though central table bargaining has already begun for the subsequent term.
Teacher collective agreements in all school jurisdictions expired on Aug. 31, 2016. Negotiations began at that time for new collective agreements using a new bi-level bargaining model that included a central discussion on matters affecting all teachers in the province followed by 61 separate negotiations on local matters. Central negotiations ended in May of 2017 and, by law, local negotiations had to commence before the end of July 2017.
These teachers deserve the same improvements gained by the majority of teachers elsewhere in the province.
Teacher Welfare co-ordinator
Forty-seven school boards reached an agreement with their teachers by the time the two-year term of the central bargaining ended in August 2018. Those agreements tend to focus on improvements to teacher personal days and family medical days, access to professional development and improvements for substitute teachers and administrators.
“These teachers deserve the same improvements gained by the majority of teachers
elsewhere in the province,” said Sandra Johnston, co-ordinator of Teacher Welfare. “Instead, the teachers are growing quite frustrated by the delay in some areas and some downright regressive bargaining positions and tactics in other areas.”
The Public Education Collective Bargaining Act leaves all standard processes and bargaining rights available to teachers in local bargaining. Most of the remaining units have applied for the assistance of a government appointed mediator in order to assist in reaching an agreement. The mediator can assist the parties to reach an agreement, compel the parties to vote on their recommended terms for settlement or simply decide that the parties are too far apart and “write-out” of the process.
After a mediator writes-out, either party may begin the process to move towards a strike or lockout.
ATA president Greg Jeffery says this is about respect, and he is worried that some tables may end up with a work stoppage.
“Teachers in a few of these boards feel a significant lack of respect from their employers,” he said. “There is not a lot to be gained from a work stoppage, but if the employer is hostile and the relationship is broken, then teachers feel they have no other options.”
Despite this possibility, Jeffery is still convinced that PECBA works.
“We have a good process for bargaining, that respects teachers’ rights,” he said. “I won’t blame the bargaining model or the central negotiators because a few school boards want to pick a fight with their teachers.”
Central table bargaining begins
Meanwhile, central table bargaining has officially begun for the 2018 round with the parties exchanging opening proposals at an initial meeting held on Sept. 10.
In a Bargainers’ Blog post reporting on that meeting, Central Table Bargaining Chair and ATA vice-president Jason Schilling spoke of trust and respect.
“You trust us to represent you and your interests in bargaining, and I take that responsibility very seriously,” he wrote, while promising to keep members informed through the blog.
“However, maintaining confidentiality at the table helps ensure that both sides are able to have full and frank conversations about sensitive matters that are important to teachers and the profession.”
Members can read the blog for themselves and more on bargaining at www.teachers.ab.ca and clicking My ATA> Members Only, logging in with their online account and then selecting Collective Bargaining Updates. ❚
14 units remain unsettled
The following ATA bargaining units have not yet settled local agreements for the 2016–18 term:
- Canadian Rockies Regional Division No. 12
- CS Centre-Est No. 3
- CS Centre-Nord No. 2
- CS FrancoSud No. 4
- Evergreen Catholic Separate Regional Division No. 2
- Fort Vermilion School Division No. 52
- Horizon School Division No. 67
- Northern Gateway Regional Division No. 10
- Peace Wapiti School Division No. 76
- Rocky View School Division No. 41
- St. Paul Education Regional Division No. 1
- Wetaskiwin Regional Division No. 11
- Lakeland Roman Catholic Separate School District No. 150
- Red Deer Catholic Regional Division No. 39