Premier's proposal provides improvements over minister's offer

March 19, 2013

On February 20, 2013, ­Provincial Executive Council (PEC) of the Alberta Teachers' Association rejected a contract offer from Minister of Education Jeff Johnson. On March 13, PEC accepted an offer from Premier Alison Redford. Featured here are some of the improvements of the March 13 proposal that were not offered February 20.

Legislative amendments

The March 13 offer includes a comprehensive comfort letter from Premier Redford that commits the provincial government to maintain many elements of the legislative and regulatory framework related to teacher employment. The letter also commits the government to fully fund the agreement and to consult with teachers on transformation. (Excerpts from the letter are featured on page 1, "Premier offers assurances." The entire letter is posted on the ATA’s website.)

School jurisdiction review of tasks

The new offer includes a joint committee of teachers and ­Alberta Education consultants that will review and report on assigned tasks. Progress must be made by the government on issues identified by the committee—if not, teachers can appeal the lack of progress to an ­Exceptions Committee.

Third-party study on teacher workload

The February 20 offer ­covered only teachers who provide ­instruction. The March 13 offer provides for a study that includes all bargaining unit members (as well as administrators and central-office-based teachers). The advisory committee now has a clearer and broader mandate to direct a more robust study.

Teacher Development and Practice Advisory Committee

A Teacher Development and Practice Advisory Committee will include principals and active classroom teachers who represent the full diversity of the teaching profession. Representatives will include members who hold a ­provincial or local assignment with the ATA. The committee is not automatically disbanded at the end of the framework ­agreement.

Embedded personal professional development

Lack of compliance with this provision was previously unenforceable. Teachers can now appeal issues to the Exceptions Committee.

Lieu days for principals

Principals who are unable to use earned days will be paid out for them by the end of July each year.

Maintenance of current instructional and assignable-time clauses

Clauses in place at the end of the last agreement remain until the end of this agreement, without being adjusted to an annual calculation.

Ministerial Order about teacher instructional time

The offer of February 20 missed an important commitment by the government and school jurisdictions to reduce workload. The March 13 ­agreement maintains that ­commitment. An exemption for more than 300 of the smallest schools in Alberta is no longer automatic. Schools must show a minimum of 4 per cent annual reduction in instructional time to obtain the automatic exemption. School jurisdictions looking for exemptions must apply annually to obtain them. The Exceptions Committee must consider what efforts have been made to reduce workload before granting exception.

Other enhancements achieved through local bargaining

0.5 per cent of the base instructional grant is provided to local negotiations for implementation in 2014. Costs of enhancements will be based on projected use rather than entitlement, thus allowing more improvements to be negotiated. Third-party Alberta Education finance officials will determine costs when parties don’t agree, as opposed to having no resolution process. Other than salary, boards may agree to items that include additional cost provided they have the resources. Up to three non-cost items may be referred to arbitration under the March 13 offer, whereas none could be referred in the ­previous offer. Cost items in dispute within the 0.5 per cent cost may be referred to ­arbitration. ­Agreed-upon enhancements that exceed the 0.5 per cent cost may be included in an agreement but not referred to arbitration.

Best efforts

The phrase "best efforts" appears in the March 13 offer, including the Ministerial Order on teacher workload. Best efforts means taking in good faith all reasonable steps to achieve the objective, carrying the process to its logical conclusion and leaving no stone unturned. Best efforts also means doing everything known to be usual, necessary and proper for ensuring the success of the endeavour.