May 13, 2013 5:33 pm
Updated: May 13, 2013 10:01 pm

Alberta government moves to legislate provincewide teachers’ deal

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The province is moving ahead with legislation that will impose a collective agreement on Alberta teachers, after a 3 p.m. deadline passed Monday with no unanimous agreement.

The legislation, called the Assurance for Students Act, will impose the four-year-deal negotiated with the Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA) on all the province’s teachers and school boards.

Education Minister Jeff Johnson says the legislation is the only way to deal with the opposition of a handful of holdouts.

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“I’m doing what I have to do to get a deal across the finish line,” Johnson said Monday.

“The alternative is to let the deal collapse because as of tonight the deal fails if we don’t have everybody on board, and we don’t have everybody on board.”

Sixty of 62 school boards have voted in favour of the agreement; the same number of teacher locals have agreed to adopt the deal as well.

However, the agreement does not have the support of several school boards, including the Calgary Board of Education (CBE). The board is Alberta’s largest school board, with 108,000 students from kindergarten to Grade 12.

The CBE has voted to affirm its earlier rejection of the tentative province-wide agreement, saying it’s concerned about unforeseen costs and the possibility that the deal gives the teachers union too much authority.

Liberal Leader Raj Sherman applauded Calgary’s public school board for taking a stand.

“The Calgary Board of Education has sent a clear message: they’re not receiving the funds required to provide education to the children of Calgary,” said Sherman.

Two union locals, in St. Albert and Elk Island, also declined to accept the deal.

The president of Calgary’s ATA local says it still supports the agreement, even though it isn’t perfect.

“You know there are things we don’t like about the agreement,” says Frank Bruseker. “But overall it’s four years of stability.”

The provincial ATA, however, isn’t happy with the province’s move, as it made clear in the tweet below.

The four-year agreement negotiated between government and the ATA in March would see compensation for 40,000 Alberta teachers frozen for three years. That would be followed by an increase of two per cent in 2015-2016 and a one-time lump sum payment – to be funded by government – in that same year.

A teacher at the top end of the salary grid currently makes $99,000 a year.

The deal also commits the Redford government to review teachers’ workload – a key issue over nearly three years of talks between the government, the ATA and the Alberta School Boards Association.

Johnson says that the negotiations over the past three years have been exhaustive and it’s time to move on.

“And with 97 percent support (for the current deal) we’re going to respect that , and it’s my intention to bring in legislation tomorrow to allow us to move forward with this deal over the next four years because it’s time, and it’s what’s best for kids.”

NDP education critic David Eggen doesn’t agree.

“This deal has proven to be not good for school boards, not good for teachers and students, and parents as well,” he says, “so perhaps the minister should take note and get back to the drawing board.”

Alberta’s teachers have been without a contract since the last one expired last August.

School boards used to negotiate individually with local teacher bargaining units, but that changed when then-premier Ed Stelmach’s government negotiated a provincewide deal in 2007.

With files from Vassy Kapelos, Global News and The Canadian Press

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