Question: Central table bargaining has been going on for a long time. When will it be done? Is an agreement close? What happens if there’s a central table agreement? What happens if there is a breakdown? When will we be locked out or forced to go on strike? Will the Special Emergency Fund be used? When will I receive an update on bargaining? How many years of zeros will I be forced to take? Why is central table bargaining taking so long?
Answer: Phew, that’s a lot of questions, but I’ve received all of those questions in the past few days.
So here’s where things stand. Yes, we have been bargaining at the central table for quite a few months. This is the first central table bargaining round, so there’s quite a lot to do at the central table. Bargaining does take time, and this is a new process for everyone.
A subcommittee of Provincial Executive Council was elected to take on this very important task. Vice-president Greg Jeffery is chair of the Central Table Bargaining Committee, along with district representatives Darrin Bauer, Jenny Regal, Jason Schilling and Lori Szmul, who are all voting members. Non-voting members include Teacher Welfare co-ordinator Sandra Johnston (who serves as secretary), me or my designee (and Sharon Vogrinetz has served in this role), and legal counsel and other Alberta Teachers’ Association staff as may be required.
Bargaining tends to proceed to the point where there is an agreement or there is a breakdown. I would anticipate that either of these directions is very possible in the days ahead. If there is a memorandum of agreement reached at the central table, an emergent meeting of Provincial Executive Council will be called to consider the memorandum, and Council will recommend it (or not) to the membership.
We will also convene a meeting of local presidents, economic policy committee chairs and economic consultants to discuss the central table memorandum. We will hold regional information meetings across the province, and bargaining unit members will be invited to attend the most convenient regional meeting. Details will be discussed and questions answered.
At the conclusion of the regional meetings, bargaining unit members will be able to vote on the central table memorandum. This vote will be conducted online through the Association’s website with a voting period of two to four days. If 50 per cent plus one of the bargaining unit members who vote accept the memorandum, there will be a central table agreement and bargaining will shift to the local level.
If there is a breakdown at the central table, an emergent meeting of Provincial Executive Council will be convened and Council will consider next steps, most likely mediation. Assuming that, we will convene an information meeting for local presidents, economic policy committee chairs and economic consultants to discuss the situation. Regional information meetings across Alberta will provide bargaining unit members with an update on central table negotiations to date, as we prepare for mediation.
A mediator could help produce a new memorandum for consideration; a mediator could also decide to make recommendations for the parties to consider. It’s also possible a mediator will conclude that there is no immediate prospect of a settlement. In such a circumstance, the Association could apply for a government-supervised strike vote and the Teachers’ Employer Bargaining Association (TEBA) could take a lockout vote. A strike or lockout could proceed on 72 hours’ notice and some costs of this action could be allocated from the Special Emergency Fund.
Continue to follow the Association’s website for all the news relating to bargaining. ❚
Questions for consideration in this column are welcome. Please address them to Gordon Thomas at Barnett House (email@example.com).