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ATA locals want better working conditions

Teacher working conditions played a key role in why the Alberta Teachers’ Association flatly rejected Education Minister Jeff Johnson’s four-year provincewide deal, says the president of a union local.

Kelly Aleman, president of ATA Local 60 for Red Deer Public Schools, was reacting to Tuesday’s announcement that the ATA provincial executive council, comprising teacher representatives from across Alberta, had voted unanimously to reject an offer.

However, collective bargaining continues locally and across the province.

Aleman was not surprised the Education minister’s offer was rejected,

“There’s been ongoing conversations with the minister along this whole three-year process in general,” Aleman said on Wednesday.

Aleman said it’s never really been about money, particularly when teachers understand the provincial government is facing financial challenges.

“It’s really about teacher workload issues and I think what the association and what teachers are concerned with are deteriorating classroom conditions,” said Aleman.

This will only hurt children’s learning, he said.

ATA President Carol Henderson called the minister’s offer unacceptable because there are no provisions for placing reasonable time limits that teachers can be assigned to work by their employer boards. In a news release, Johnson said the ATA’s rejection of a commitment to study workload issues, the cornerstone of the offer, was particularly upsetting.

The minister’s deal proposed salaries being frozen over three years, followed by an increase of two per cent in 2015-16. The ATA had proposed on Nov. 30 a deal of freezing salary grids for two years and increases of one per cent in year three and three per cent in year four.

Teacher bargaining units are still actively engaged in bargaining with school boards.

Red Deer Public Schools is one district that has come out and said it prefers bargaining at the local level.

The teachers’ economic policy committee have already met with the school board regarding the collective agreement, but right now negotiations are in a holding pattern until the provincial budget comes out on March 7, said Aleman.

The teachers’ contract with the school board ended last Aug. 30.

Brice Unland, president of Union Local 80 with Red Deer Catholic Regional Division, said that local bargaining has been a staple, except for the last five years when there was an agreement between the province, ATA and ASBA.

“I’m not unhappy (with local bargaining),” said Unland. “It’s the process we’re familiar with. We tried to come to an agreement with all three parties and we didn’t get there. The end result is that we’ll continue to work with our school board as a local to come to an agreement that both of us will be satisfied with.”

The Alberta School Boards Association accepted Johnson’s proposal in principle.

“The trustees of Red Deer Catholic Regional Division No. 30 support the proposal in most aspects and would utilize this template for the basis of future negotiations with the local,” said the school board in a news release.

ltester@reddeeradvocate.com

 
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