Alberta Teachers' Association rejects latest deal from province
Published Tuesday, February 26, 2013 2:31PM MST
Last Updated Tuesday, February 26, 2013 6:26PM MST
The Alberta Teachers’ Association on Tuesday unanimously rejected the latest deal offered from the province, which included cash incentives for teachers.
ATA President Carol Henderson said it was a unanimous vote to reject the Education Minister’s recent offer to settle teacher collective agreements for four years.
“The minister’s offer is unacceptable,” Henderson said.
“There are no provisions for placing reasonable limits on the amount of time that teachers can be assigned to work by their employer boards, and what provisions there are for limiting the amount of time teachers are in the classroom are full of loopholes.”
The recent offer was made on Feb. 20, proposing a four-year agreement with a salary freeze for the first three years, followed by a two per cent increase in the fourth year.
Education Minister Jeff Johnson had issued a letter to Henderson and the Alberta School Board Association chair on Feb. 20 outlining the proposed agreement and adding there would also be a cash incentive for teachers.
“In an effort to expedite an agreement with teachers that is reasonable, government will work with school boards to provide a cash incentive to teachers equivalent to one per cent of their salary in the third and fourth years if we can reach a provincial deal by the end of February,” Johnson writes.
“This proposal is fair for teachers, school boards, and is in the best interest of our children. Simply put, it is time to put the focus back on students and off on the ongoing labour negotiations.”
Henderson spoke Tuesday afternoon, with 18 teachers from across the province by her side, saying the offer was “so full of loopholes, you could drive a school bus through them.”
The ATA viewed the letter as a threat for salary rollbacks and job cuts.
“Teacher’s do not respond well to ultimatums,” Henderson said.
The association says it is not threatening strikes or lockouts and insists it just wants collective bargaining.
“We’ve said no to the minister’s offer but yes to collective bargaining, and yes to fair solutions with locally-elected school boards,” Henderson said.
Johnson said on Tuesday, that he was disappointed with the union's decision to reject what he says is a fair and reasonable offer.
"We thought it was a very generous offer, especially in light of the current fiscal climate. We've been working extremely hard on this negotiating process for two and a half years," he said.
The ATA is set to return to collective bargaining with 62 individual school boards in the province, and say they do want to work together with the government, however they are looking at an “uncertain next four years.”
"By walking away from the provincial table and going back to the local tables, they're saying no to a lot of the things with respect to the workload issues that they've got that only the province can deliver on," Johnson said.
The Edmonton Public School board supports the ATA's decision - as do the majority of the Catholic board, but they will officially meet with the union to discuss the issue.
The province says the average Alberta teacher with 10 years experience currently makes more than $92,000 a year, the highest figure in Canada.
Over the past decade, the average salary of teachers with at least 10 years experience has risen by 41 per cent from $65,203 in 2001-02 to $92,201 in 2011-12.
Had a deal been reached, it would have affected nearly 35,000 teachers in Alberta.
With files from Brenna Rose