Question: I’m a big supporter of local bargaining and I feel betrayed by Bill 8. How can the Association possibly achieve my needs — so many of which relate to my local circumstances — at provincial bargaining?
Answer: I’m a big supporter of local bargaining too. It has not been eliminated by Bill 8, the Public Education Collective Bargaining Act. The new law, now in effect, requires bargaining locally and also centrally. I think it is very important to note that word, centrally. A central table is different than a provincial table. The end product of central table and local table bargaining will be 61 collective agreements. This is not about provincial bargaining — one collective agreement.
I would entirely expect that salary would be one of the matters discussed at the central table. In a provincial agreement, there would be one provincial salary grid; that is not necessarily the case in central table bargaining. If 10 items are dealt with at the central table, the resolution of those matters forms a central table memorandum of agreement that must be ratified by a vote of all members. Local bargaining can then open, with bargaining on the matters identified for local bargaining (no doubt, many more than 10).
When agreement is reached in each bargaining unit on local matters, a vote will be taken on the memorandum of agreement, and should the bargaining unit members ratify the local agreement, a collective agreement (central terms plus local terms) would be in effect.
At last week’s meeting, Provincial Executive Council established the Central Table Bargaining Committee, a subcommittee of Provincial Executive Council itself, with five Council members augmented by the executive secretary or designee (nonvoting) and the co-ordinator of the Teacher Welfare program area (nonvoting). The Association’s central table bargaining will be directed by the committee, which will also have available other Association staff, legal counsel and field members as may be required.
Association policy is determined by delegates at the Annual Representative Assembly, and the policy on collective bargaining (that is, bi-level bargaining) was first approved in 2002 and reaffirmed in 2005, 2010 and 2011. The Association’s goal in establishing a central table for bargaining is to bring the government to the table as the funder of education.
No matter how strong local school board relations may be, if boards do not have the funding necessary for their system, it will not be possible to meet teacher expectations. Government, as funder, at the table will improve our ability to meet members’ needs. Again, there is a very important distinction between central bargaining and provincial bargaining, and I would fully expect a significant majority of the matters for discussion will occur at the local level.
Bi-level bargaining also occurs in Saskatchewan and Ontario; otherwise, the norm across the country is provincial bargaining in some form. The only province in Canada with local bargaining is Manitoba, and Manitoba school boards are also the only school boards in the country that have the right to raise local taxes for the purposes of funding public education. ❚
Questions for consideration in this column are welcome. Please address them to Gordon Thomas at Barnett House (email@example.com).