Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools interfered with the work of the Alberta Teachers’ Association, according to Alberta Labour Relations Board. (Photo from Facebook)

Labour board reprimands Red Deer Catholic schools

Division interferes with Alberta Teachers’ Association

The Alberta Labour Relations Board has ruled that Red Deer Regional Catholic Schools interfered with the work of the Alberta Teachers’ Association in 2017.

The union filed an unfair labour practice complaint after principals were sent an email encouraging them to attend an ATA meeting where teachers were going to discuss their concerns about an increase in their work hours with superintendent Paul Mason.

The email was sent by associate superintendent Dave Khatib so principals could “counter vocal detractors who may be embellishing what is really happening,” according to the decision released this week.

The ATA said if principals attended, teachers would not be able to speak freely, and the meeting was cancelled.

The email wasn’t the labour board’s only criticism of the school jurisdiction. It found that text messages between Mason and a principal “sought to sow dissension among ATA members.”

The board also said a letter from associate superintendent Kathleen Finnagan to ATA president Greg Jeffery was an attempt to have Chris Gibbon, the ATA’s representative bargaining agent for Red Deer Catholic, removed from his position and interfere with the administration of the ATA and spokesperson selection.

The Alberta Labour Relations Board ruled Red Deer Catholic interfered with the representation of teachers by the ATA and ATA’s administration by its conduct and communications.

The board ordered Red Deer Catholic to cease such conduct.

“All staff are valuable and a key part of our school division. After the Alberta Labour Relations Board ruling, we are prepared to follow their directive,” said Mason in a statement to the Advocate.

Said Sandra Johnston, the union’s co-ordinator of teacher welfare: “We are pleased with the decision of the labour relations board, which found that the Red Deer Catholic School Division has interfered with the rights of teachers and the association to bargain fairly on their behalf.”

Johnston said Red Deer Catholic teachers have been working without a collective agreement for more than two and a half years and are one of only 13 jurisdictions that have not reached an agreement for the 2016-through-2018 period.

“Instead of focusing on reaching a fair settlement, the school division has attempted to use divisive tactics to thwart an agreement – like the ones the labour relations board just ruled against,” said Johnston, who encouraged the school board to return to the bargaining table and work toward an agreement.

“If they are not able to do that, then we will ask them to join us in submitting the dispute to voluntary arbitration for settlement. It is long past due for a settlement to these negotiations, so that teachers, students and the school division can move on.”

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