Three teachers from the field were welcomed at the central table bargaining session to share their stories on inclusive education in early November. Appropriate supports for the inclusion of students with exceptionalities is one of a number of teacher conditions of practice being discussed in negotiations.
Current collective agreements for teachers employed by Alberta’s 61 public, separate and francophone school boards expired on Aug. 31, 2016, and central table bargaining started in late June toward achieving new collective agreements. Alberta’s new bargaining model includes central negotiations between the Association and representatives of government and school boards on some agreed-upon matters followed by local negotiations on any remaining matters.
Central Table Bargaining Committee Chair Greg Jeffery posts regular updates on his bargaining blog, found in the Members’ Only section of the Association website at teachers.ab.ca. In his Nov. 10 posting, he showed appreciation for the teachers who made an appearance at the table.
“Sometimes it really helps to bring in some outside voices,” Jeffery wrote. “These three teachers did a fantastic job, and I cannot thank them enough for coming in to share their stories.”
In previous editions of the blog, Jeffery wrote about the amount of time that bargaining is taking and may be expected to take, how teachers would be informed and engaged when a settlement is reached, and why confidentiality is important at the bargaining table.
“This is a new process for us and we anticipate it will take longer than previous rounds of bargaining,” Jeffery wrote on Oct. 25. “There is still lots to talk about and some of the issues are quite complex. We have an opportunity with this model to achieve solutions that have never been put into teacher collective agreements, so we want to make sure we get it right.”
In that same post, Jeffery said the Association would enact a comprehensive communication plan to ensure teachers are well informed about any memorandum of agreement that might be reached at the central table. Each active member of the Association is entitled to vote on any agreement, and the Association will use online voting to ratify the agreement. Jeffery said there would be an “all-out push” to make sure teachers are informed and prepared to vote, but he called for teachers to help ensure all of their colleagues had online accounts for the Association website.
On Oct. 21, Jeffery’s blog post explained why the Association cannot release more specific information about the discussions at the bargaining table.
“Confidentiality ensures that we can have full and frank discussions on … sensitive matters,” he wrote. “The participants need to trust that everyone is speaking honestly and openly at the table.”
In earlier posts, the conversation at the table was described as constructive with a positive tone. Meeting dates have been scheduled into January, and Jeffery plans to continue to keep teachers updated with regular posts to the blog.
“I recognize that you are entrusting us with the responsibility of representing your views and interests at the table,” wrote Jeffery. “This is a big responsibility and we take it seriously.” ❚
Access the blog
Bargainer’s Blog contains more details than is summarized
Teachers will need an online login and need to be active members employed as contract or substitute teachers with one of the Alberta’s 61 school boards in order to access the website.