During the 2006/07 school year, while teaching, I served as the local communications officer and economic policy committee chair for Timberline Local No. 9.
Our collective agreement with the employing Wild Rose School Division expired in August 2006, and negotiations did not go well over the course of that year. In April, teachers voted 90 per cent in favour of strike action. Strike notice was served and we came within 10 hours of walking out when last-chance negotiations resulted in a memorandum of agreement.
As the webmaster for our modest local website, which contained regular communications to members about the progress of negotiations, I learned a great deal about communications that year. We pushed to ensure that teachers had a login so they could keep informed — particularly with the possibility that we wouldn’t be able to communicate through the schools. I watched as the number of hits took off and the number of requests from members for online accounts also exploded as we moved closer and closer to the work stoppage.
Communications during negotiations is critical, particularly the way that members are kept informed about the progress and events associated with bargaining. The Association is committed to ensuring that it has a robust and well-planned communications strategy to accompany the upcoming round of negotiations.
Much is yet to be determined about how central bargaining will occur under the province’s new bi-level model for negotiating teacher collective agreements. The government will be drafting regulations to go along with its recently passed Bill 8, and the Association will subsequently decide its own processes, with a commitment to keeping members informed of progress and newsworthy activities related to negotiations.
The world of media has evolved significantly in recent years, and we know that no single communication channel will effectively push out a message. So we anticipate that we’ll communicate with members through a variety of channels, including the ATA News, our website, Members’ Update emails, Facebook, Twitter and our iPhone app, among others.
We have also set up a Members Only page on our website as the go-to place for information about negotiations. This site may include updates of emergent events, a history of negotiations and links to relevant information and resources related to issues being discussed. You can find it now at teachers.ab.ca, under Information On.
Here are eight ways that you can stay informed about bargaining, now and in the months ahead:
1. Set up your online account at teachers.ab.ca.
2. Update your profile there so we have current (non-school) contact information.
3. Sign up for Members’ Update emails at bit.ly/membersupdate.
4. Read the ATA News.
5. Like us on Facebook at facebook.com/ABteachers.
6. Follow us on Twitter at twitter.com/albertateachers.
7. Download the ATA’s iPhone application.
8. Read the Winter 2015 ATA Magazine, all about Teacher Welfare.
I’m optimistic about this next round of negotiations. There are important issues that need to be discussed related to teachers’ conditions of practice — but I am hopeful that we have a government and school boards who are willing to listen and take the concerns of teachers seriously.
In the meantime, do your part — get involved and stay informed. With your support, we can achieve meaningful improvements to the professional lives of teachers and the classroom experiences of students.
I was deeply saddened to learn of the recent and sudden death of a fine friend and colleague, Joe Bower. I joined Twitter in November of 2008 and shortly after (June 2009) Joe joined and started blogging about education. Like many of you, that is how I first met him.
This young junior high teacher from Red Deer quickly became a global heavyweight, challenging us to rethink areas like assessment, accountability, grading, homework and standardization.
I feel fortunate that, through my work and his involvement with the ATA, I got to know Joe personally. I was always impressed by his courage, conviction, passion and, most of all, leadership.
Joe’s death is a big loss. I am, however, somewhat comforted in knowing that he’s leaving a legacy of insightful critiques and inspirational ideas for improving education. More importantly, he has provided us with the courage and inspiration to go out and advocate — to speak out for the changes we want to see in the world.
Thanks for that, Joe. You will be missed. ❚
I welcome your comments—contact me at email@example.com.