Sandra Johnston, Teacher Welfare co-ordinator
Teachers have been left in limbo as the lack of a provincial budget stalls local bargaining.
That’s the view of Sandra Johnston, co-ordinator of the ATA’s Teacher Welfare program area when asked about the progress of local bargaining. The lack of a provincial budget has left many school boards reluctant to come to the table without secured funding for the upcoming year.
“It’s a difficult position to be in for school boards without surpluses,” Johnston said.
“A lot of these school boards run pretty close to the last penny. Asking them to sit down and bargain with us when they don’t know exactly how much money they’re getting is a pretty difficult task.”
While the Association has opened for local bargaining in all 61 bargaining units, Johnston said only about one-third of the bargaining units are actively in negotiations. The rest are preparing initial proposals and scheduling meeting dates with school boards.
On the positive side, five bargaining units have successfully reached memorandums of agreement and one has ratified.
Westwind School Division reached its agreement at the end of June. Members voted in favour of the package at the end of August and the board followed suit Sept. 5.
Bargaining units in Wild Rose, Wolf Creek, Holy Family Catholic and Peace River currently have agreements in place with ratification votes scheduled for the upcoming weeks.
Work–life balance a priority
Improvements to work–life balance seem to be emerging as a strong trend for those at the table. Strides are being made to improve access to professional development funding and add wellness spending accounts to existing health spending accounts.
Johnston pointed out that changes affecting smaller but significant employee groups are also under discussion.
“We’re looking at improvements for substitute teachers, school leaders and part-time teachers,” she said.
ATA Teacher Welfare is also working to assemble a strong case for the upcoming salary arbitration in mid-November. Once the arbitration is decided, it will complete the central table settlement, which makes up the core of all local bargaining agreements currently being negotiated.
Johnston hopes to see all units with ratified collective agreements before the end of the school year. She’d like to see them wrapped up before list bargaining begins in spring 2020, which will kick off negotiations for the next collective agreement.
For updates on the progress of bargaining in your area, check with your local Teacher Welfare Committee. “Those are the folks with all the knowledge about what’s going on,” Johnston said. “They receive weekly updates on all of the units and have the most up-to-date information on bargaining.” ❚