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Alberta teachers ‘narrowly’ vote to accept contract

Click to play video: '‘Unhappy’ Alberta teachers vote to accept new contract by very narrow margin' ‘Unhappy’ Alberta teachers vote to accept new contract by very narrow margin
With just 51.1 per cent of ballots supporting the mediator’s recommendations, Alberta teachers have narrowly voted to accept a four-year bargaining agreement with the government. As Tom Vernon reports, the Alberta Teachers’ Association said educators are not happy but resigned to move forward – Jun 10, 2022

With just 51.1 per cent of total ballots supporting the mediator’s recommendations, Alberta teachers have narrowly voted to accept a four-year bargaining agreement with the province.

“The teachers are unhappy,” said Jason Schilling, president of the Alberta Teachers’ Association.

“But they (so) want to see a government move forward that they were willing to accept the bare minimum, in this case, to have stability in a system that has been experiencing quite a level of chaos in the last couple of years, but still have the expectation that these issues will be addressed.”

The four-year deal will see a 3.75 per cent wage increase for teachers — which is not retroactive — and a two per cent increase on daily rates for substitute teachers in lieu of benefits.

Read more: Alberta Teachers’ Association revives concerns over K-6 school curriculum

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On Friday, Schilling said 48.3 per cent of 22,921 total ballots were against the deal and 120 voters abstained.

“While these results tell us that the mediator’s recommendations are something teachers are willing to live with, it is clear that teachers have run out of patience and future bargaining must address these issues: like class size and composition,” Schilling said.

Read more: Grant plan to cut Alberta class sizes has failed, says education minister

He explained class sizes have been a huge issue for a long time, under various governments, and were a big focus during this bargaining. However, the government “refused to budge an inch on classroom conditions,” Schilling said.

Advocacy for class sizes will continue for the ATA, he said, whether that’s through policy, ahead of the 2023 provincial election, or through the next round of bargaining.

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Reducing Alberta class sizes would cost $4 billion: Kenney – Sep 1, 2020

After spending the last four weeks visiting across the province, Schilling said the ATA heard teachers’ concerns about classroom conditions: class sizes and being able to meet the complex needs of students.

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Schilling said the ATA also heard teachers don’t like the provincial government’s rhetoric on issues like pension, curriculum “and basic respect.”

Read more: ATA accuses Alberta government of trying to ‘punish’ teachers by passing Bill 15

He said Alberta teachers have been pushed “to the limit of their tolerance.”

“Teachers have voted, by the thinnest of margins, for stability when the public education system really needs it, and they did so despite the current government’s recklessness and indifference to the state of our classrooms,” Schilling said.

Click to play video: 'Tentative deal for Alberta teachers includes wage freeze' Tentative deal for Alberta teachers includes wage freeze
Tentative deal for Alberta teachers includes wage freeze – Apr 27, 2017

In a news release, acting minister of finance Jason Nixon said: “I am pleased to hear that ATA members and TEBA have accepted the mediator’s recommendation for a four-year central agreement.

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“Alberta’s teachers have always played an important role in our province, and in the lives of young Albertans. The hard work and dedication of teachers does not go unnoticed.

“I want to thank both TEBA and the ATA for their efforts over many months of negotiations. This agreement will set the stage for stability in Alberta’s education system.”

Read more: Calgary school boards hire more teachers with federal funding

The ATA estimates that the wage increases in the four-year contract will cost a total of $157.4 million.

In the news conference Friday, Schilling stressed this must be covered by provincial dollars and not downloaded onto school boards to fund.

“Government bargained this deal. Government needs to fund it, simple as that. They need to give the school boards the money to fund this so it’s not coming out of the operational branch provided to school boards to take that money out of the classroom.

“We’ve seen a history of this, of government making decisions and then making school boards try to enact that.”

That method would lead to layoffs of teachers, educational assistants, and larger class sizes, Schilling said.

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