Local boards, teachers have no interest in legislated contract
Education: Minister Jeff Johnson says forced deal a last resort
By: Darlene Casten
| Posted: Wednesday, Feb 13, 2013 12:33 pm
Local school boards haven’t started bargaining with their teachers, but say they would like the chance to do so before the Province legislates an agreement.
Last week Alberta Education Minister Jeff Johnson told the media he had inquiries from some school boards over a provincially legislated teacher contract. Although, Johnson said a legislated agreement is a last resort, teachers and school boards voiced some concern.
Local Alberta Teacher’s Association president for the Foothills School Division Dave Matson said those comments are not well timed.
“I don’t think it makes a lot of sense for him to talk about legislating a contract when our talks are ongoing,” Matson said, adding he would not support a forced contract.
However, he said the suggestion from the Province regarding legislating a contract isn’t distracting teachers.
“Teachers are focusing on what they do best,” Matson said. “Helping students.”
Representatives from Christ the Redeemer Catholic Schools and the Foothills School Division said they have not made any such inquiries.
Neither board took a stance against the idea, but said they would prefer to negotiate locally with their teachers.
Foothills School Division (FSD) assistant superintendent Drew Chipman said trustees have indicated their first choice is provincial bargaining and then local bargaining.
“We think teachers should be at the table,” Chipman said.
Division officials and trustees will be meeting with Johnson on Feb. 26 and Chipman said they will not be raising the issue of legislated contracts, but he does expect labour talks to be part of the discussion.
Chipman said the board is awaiting direction from Johnson and the Province on what they can expect for future funding.
“We will want to wait and see what comes out in the budget,” Chipman said.
The Province released their three-year funding plan for education in last year’s budget, but recently Johnson said they may not be able to uphold those promises.
Premier Alison Redford said teachers’ salaries, much like doctors’ wages, will have to be looked at closely by the Province with a looming $6 billion deficit.
“My message to doctors and teachers is no different than my message has been to Albertans for two months which is we have a $6 billion drop in revenue that’s unprecedented, that is something that no one foresaw,” she said.
Doctors are also currently negotiating their contract with the Province.
Despite the controversial remarks from Johnson the two local school boards intend to carry on with local negotiations.
Christ the Redeemer Catholic Schools is beginning their negotiations with teachers in April.
“We are committed to local bargaining until someone tells us otherwise,” said associate superintendent Scott Morrison.
He said the busy schedules of the two side’s bargaining agents is the main impediment to starting talks right away.
“The ATA has a bargaining agent and the board has a bargaining agent and they are doing that all over the province,” he said. “They are very busy right now.”
Morrison said he would like to see the teachers’ contract settled through negotiations, rather than legislation.
“We would prefer to negotiate with our teachers and reach a fair settlement,” he said.
He said it is not easy going into negotiations with all the uncertainty around the Province’s budget this year.
“We really need some certainty for next year before we can meaningfully push forward with negotiations,” he said.