Greg Jeffery, chair of the Central Table Bargaining Committee, signs a new memorandum of agreement reached between the Alberta Teachers’ Association and representatives of school boards and government. Other committee members are (L-R, back): Sandra Johnston, Jason Schilling and Jenny Regal; (L-R, front) Lori Szmul and Darrin Bauer.
Teachers urged to attend information meetings
Time and autonomy were key issues for teachers as they entered the latest bargaining phase, and a new memorandum of agreement provides significant gains in both those areas.
That’s the assessment of Greg Jeffery, chair of the Central Table Bargaining Committee (CTBC), which has been negotiating on behalf of teachers with the Teachers’ Employer Bargaining Association. The two sides reached a memorandum of agreement on April 24 after months of negotiations.
“As a whole I think this is a solid achievement for the teachers of this province,” Jeffery said.
The agreement contains caps on instructional and assignable time for every teacher in the province as well as providing teachers with complete autonomy over their professional growth plans.
While the two-year agreement contains no increases to teacher salaries, it does contain “me too” provisions — if other large public-sector unions secure salary increases in upcoming deals, teachers will get the same increase.
The agreement also includes a $75 million Classroom Improvement Fund that will distribute funds according to locally established priorities as agreed to by both teachers and school board representatives.
Jeffery noted that the agreement is the first to be achieved under a new bi-level structure that the government legislated in December 2015, an approach that has been part of Association policy since 2002.
“This is a precedent-setting agreement,” Jeffery said. “This has never occurred in the history of teacher bargaining in this province … finally we’re bargaining with people who control the purse.”
In what Jeffery described as “a slow and cautious process,” the central table negotiations have been ongoing since last summer.
“First of all, we had to do a lot of education of the TEBA committee because the government people weren’t necessarily connected to education and the trustees weren’t connected to the bargaining process,” Jeffery said. “We did a lot of teaching early on at the bargaining table.”
In order to take effect, the memorandum needs to be ratified by teachers and the school board members of TEBA. Teachers will be able to vote online from May 11 to 14.
If approved, the central table agreement will be incorporated into the 61 collective agreements between the Association and individual school boards. As part of the new bargaining model, local negotiations will then proceed.
The Association has mobilized its communication resources to inform its members of the content of the central agreement. Jeffery is encouraging teachers to visit the Bargaining 2016 webpage at teachers.ab.ca, which contains the full memorandum and detailed explanations.
Member Information Meetings are also taking place throughout the province between May 1 and May 10. Jeffery is strongly encouraging teachers to attend one of these meetings to learn more about the agreement and to discuss its merits.
“Showing up to the Member Information Meetings will be very important,” Jeffery said. “Make sure you educate yourself and please get out to vote.” ❚