A salary dispute between local teachers and the province could soon go to arbitration, with the union representing local public school teachers planning to file a grievance and another grievance expected soon from the union representing Catholic teachers.
The Red Deer Public School District and Red Deer Catholic Regional School Division announced on Wednesday that they would increase teachers’ pay by 4.82 per cent this year, which is all the provincial government has agreed to fund.
In the spring, Statistics Canada changed the way it determines the average weekly wage index and under the new criteria, teachers would receive a 5.99 per cent increase, which is what they feel they are entitled to.
“I don’t think teachers are angry. They’re just a little bit surprised the government has chosen to do this now,” said Kelly Aleman, local president for the ATA Red Deer Public Local No. 60. Léo Richer, president of the ATA Red Deer Catholic Local No. 80, was not available for comment.
“As teachers we understand the government is in a difficult financial position, but we are just simply following our agreement,” Aleman said.
“That is what we would like the public to know. We’re not negotiating to get more money, we’re just simply trying to hold the government to the agreement that we signed.”
The ATA agreed to a five-year contract in January 2008 that would see wage increases follow the average weekly wage earnings index as determined by Statistics Canada. The government wants to follow Statistics Canada’s old way of figuring it out and the teachers want to follow the current Statistics Canada way.
Aleman said the next step for the local ATA will be to file a grievance.
Bill Stuebing, chair of the Red Deer Public board, said he hopes that instead of having 62 different arbitration and court cases across the province, that a limited number of test cases can settle the dispute.
“Our teachers understand it is not their board doing this to them. We have been more or less instructed by the (education) minister. It was strongly suggested and fervently hoped for by the minister that we would in fact go along with this and, in fact, while a formal vote wasn’t taken that was the consensus of the board meeting in Edmonton,” said Stuebing, who met with other board chairs and superintendents during the weekend.
If a board chose to give teachers the 5.99 per cent increase, it would have to fund it without help from the provincial government and it would cost a half a million dollars more for Red Deer Public School District, Stuebing said. “The only way it would go to 5.99, the only way we could get the government to fund it is if the government conceded that was the rate and that would require a judge to instruct them,” he said.
Christine Moore, chair of the Red Deer Catholic School Division board, said the Catholic board decided to give the 4.82 per cent raise because that is what the provincial government will fund. She expects the ATA Red Deer Catholic Local No. 80 will file a grievance in the next month.
“It’s not about the figure it’s about the formula,” Moore said. “It will set a precedent for the future and future calculations.”
She said this is not something that is between the ATA and the Catholic board, but something that needs arbitration and a legal opinion for the issue to be clarified.