It appears Alberta’s teachers could be facing the same job action the province’s doctors recently encountered, an imposed labour contract, and they’re not happy about it – although the Minister of Education said some boards in the province want it.

The president of the Alberta Teacher’s Association said she’s concerned about the idea of an imposed contract.

“I have no idea why the minister is floating this idea,” ATA President Carol Henderson said. “Collective bargaining is something we’ve done for years, our historical roots are local bargaining, and that’s what we’re doing.”

Education Minister Jeff Johnson said the idea for an imposed contract was raised by a school board trustee, and has become a topic of discussion across Alberta.

“No government wants to impose any deal on labour, and we’re no different,” Johnson said. “It would be a last resort for this province and not something we would consider unless we feel there would be risks to or impact to the classrooms.”

The idea has come out in recent meetings with individual school boards – and Alberta Education has said some school boards that have been negotiating with the province separately, want an imposed contract because of tight budgets.

“They’re really left with nothing right now, they know the fiscal situation, they really have nothing to bargain with,” Johnson said. “They’re going to be put in a really difficult position, and at the end of the day they want to put kids at the centre of any decisions that are made.”

Meanwhile, 42,000 teachers have been without a contract since last summer – and the ATA hasn’t negotiated directly with the province since the government rejected a province-wide offer from the union in December that included no wage increase for the first two years, in exchange for a better working environment.

“That would have provided the government their financial goals and labour stability for four years, and improved classroom conditions,” Henderson said. “And we weren’t able to achieve that with this minister.”

Bargaining has moved to the local level, with 62 school boards negotiating with the province.

Johnson said he would ultimately like to see a long-term province-wide deal with teachers.

With files from Veronica Jubinville