Question: Do you think the government will honour my collective agreement, or will I not receive the salary increase promised for next year? Will there be job losses?
Answer: Premier Jim Prentice has indicated that collective agreements currently in place will be honoured and that was confirmed in a meeting between him and Alberta Teachers’ Association President Mark Ramsankar on March 19.
That means that you will receive the salary increase (two per cent) in the year ahead, and you will also receive the one per cent lump sum payment (teachers on contract on Nov. 15, 2015) in December 2015. For it to be different, the Association would need to agree to open the collective agreement in each instance, and teachers and their boards would need to ratify changes, or the legislature would need to pass a new law repealing the increase included in the Assurance for Students Act.
While there is clarity from Premier Prentice that the collective agreements will be honoured, there is no clarity at this point that the agreements will be funded. The framework agreement expressly requires the government to fund the one-time lump sum payment, but it is unclear if government intends to increase grants to school boards that are consistent with cost increases generated by other elements of the agreement.
Finance Minister Robin Campbell has mused about a five per cent reduction plus no funding for inflation and growth, which would amount to a funding loss in the range of nine or 10 per cent. The implications of such a reduction would be devastating to the system, with losses in the range of 3,500 teachers. A reduction of five per cent, but no funding for inflation, would see a loss in the range of 2,500 teachers.
Campbell will announce details in the provincial budget on March 26. There is a strong possibility that a provincial general election will be called after the budget is tabled, and the most likely date for a provincial general election in such a scenario would be April 27.
The Association will certainly work to make education cuts a major issue in the general election. It will be vital for members to be very active in raising the issue with candidates from all political parties. The Association is nonpartisan in its approach, does not endorse any political party, and encourages members to get engaged as citizens in their local communities. ❚
Questions for consideration in this column are welcome. Please address them to Gordon Thomas at Barnett House (email@example.com).