Flanked by Central Table Bargaining Committee chair Greg Jeffery, Teacher Welfare coordinator Sandra Johnston speaks during an information sharing webcast on June 6.
The Alberta Teachers’ Association has reached an agreement with the Teachers’ Employer Bargaining Association (TEBA) on two lists outlining which matters may be negotiated centrally with TEBA and which matters may be negotiated locally with individual school boards.
Chair of the Association’s Central Table Bargaining Committee (CTBC) Greg Jeffery said he was pleased with the process used to obtain the agreement and noted that the tone and relationship at the table were quite positive and productive.
“I am pleased that we were able to reach this agreement with TEBA quickly and efficiently,” Jeffery said. “We met the timelines set out in the law, we avoided arbitration on the lists and now we can move forward in negotiating the substance of the central matters.”
The Public Education Collective Bargaining Act, passed last December, established a three-phase process whereby central bargaining first determines the lists of matters that may be discussed centrally and locally. The second phase includes central negotiations on those matters assigned to the central table. And the third phase features local negotiations on matters drawn from the local list. The agreement on the lists of matters concludes the first phase of the process.
Jeffery announced the agreement June 5 on his Bargainer’s Blog, where the complete lists are available to members who have a teachers.ab.ca login.
Together with Teacher Welfare co-ordinator Sandra Johnston, Jeffery also hosted a webcast for members on June 6 to provide an overview of the agreed lists and to respond to questions. Archived footage from the telecast is available for viewing on the Association’s website.
Opening proposal approved
Following agreement on the lists of matters, Provincial Executive Council considered and approved an opening position for CTBC to take forward to commence negotiations on the central matters with TEBA.
“We have said continuously that teachers need more time and more freedom to exercise their professional judgment in order to effectively provide their best professional service,” said ATA president Mark Ramsankar. “PEC has approved a number of proposals in the agreement that, if accepted, would improve teachers’ conditions of practice and ultimately enhance teaching and learning in Alberta’s schools.”
The opening position was based on the responses of members on a series of common questions collected earlier this year in local bargaining needs surveys and on input from economic policy committees in each bargaining unit.
Two dates are scheduled to start central table bargaining before the end of the school year. After the Association’s position has been shared with TEBA, it will be shared with teachers on the Association’s Members’ Only Bargaining 2016 website.
Central table bargaining includes all of the regular features of collective bargaining that have previously been included in local collective bargaining, including access to mediation and the right to strike. No specific timelines are required for the conclusion of an agreement and although current collective agreements will expire on Aug. 31, the conditions of employment will remain in place until an agreement is reached or a work stoppage occurs.
“We are now at the very start of an essentially new round of bargaining and while we would like to move things along quickly, we also want to make sure we have good discussion,” Jeffery said. “TEBA is a new organization so we may need to spend some time talking about a number of issues that are important and familiar to teachers, but may be unfamiliar to them.”
Any memorandum of agreement reached on central bargaining will include provisions that become part of local collective agreements and will need to be ratified by a majority vote of all active members.
Now that they have the list of local matters and the results of local bargaining needs surveys, economic policy committees (EPCs) for each of the 61 bargaining units can continue preparations for the third phase of the bargaining process. Local negotiations cannot begin until a central agreement is ratified, but local EPCs now have the information they need to prepare for that phase. ❚