Alberta teachers have vowed to stand in solidarity with doctors, whose long-standing compensation agreement was tossed out by the province on Thursday.
Doctors and government have been negotiating on new terms since November, and this week, the province terminated its master agreement with physicians and imposed a number of changes to pay rules and programs.
Alberta Teachers’ Association president Jason Schilling said teachers’ contract ends in August. Negotiations will begin soon with the province, so it’s extremely disappointing to see what happened to doctors, he said.
“We literally trust our doctors with our lives. That they should be treated with such contempt is deeply disturbing,” Schilling said.
“To have this happen as we’re starting this process sends a bit of a chill that we could have something like this happen to us,” the ATA president said before speaking to teachers at the Central Alberta Teachers’ Convention held at Red Deer College on Friday.
He said teachers worry about the education budget in next week’s provincial budget.
“We are a united profession that will oppose austerity measures in budgets, and we’ll oppose any kind of educational policies that erode public education, because we believe in it, so we’re willing to stand up for it,” said Schilling, who grew up in Rocky Mountain House.
Kelly Aleman, ATA Local 60 president, representing teachers with Red Deer Public Schools, said so many things have happened in the past year without teachers’ consultation, that they are worried what will happen next.
He said there has also been a reluctance by this government to accept that the ATA speaks for teachers.
“The association is really struggling to have meaningful input, and they’re our leaders, and they are our experts in the field,” Aleman said.
Other labour groups such as the Alberta Federation of Labour also condemned how doctors were treated.
Gil McGowan, Alberta Federation of Labour president, said Premier Jason Kenney’s government’s decision to tear up a negotiated and legally binding agreement with doctors “should set off alarm bells with all Albertans.”
“For a government that has spent the last month talking aggressively about the need to enforce the rule of law, the irony couldn’t be more obvious and troubling.
“Canadian law respects both contracts and the collective bargaining process. In this case, it’s clearly the Kenney government, not the doctors, who are the rule breakers,” McGowan said in a statement.
“This is a bully government that seems willing to follow the law only when it suits their purposes and their ideology.”
He said Albertans should be concerned that the UCP is clearly trying to undermine confidence in the public health-care system.
“It’s the oldest trick in the right-wing playbook: break popular public institutions by under-funding and mismanaging them; then say privatization is the only way to fix things.
“Albertans should not allow themselves to be fooled,” McGowan said.
“What happened Thursday with the doctors is a huge red flag.”
— with files from The Canadian Press