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Teachers say no to minister's offer

Mar 05, 2013 09:15 am | Janice Huser

Last week the Alberta Teacher’s Association (ATA) rejected a deal from the Alberta government, leading teachers to local bargaining with Alberta school boards across the province. The deal would have settled teacher collective agreements for four years.

St. Paul Education Regional Division (SPERD) board chair Maureen Miller said she would have liked to see a deal reached, but is happy that SPERD has a great working relationship with the local ATA.

She explains that none of the new proposals from the government would have affected local teachers and that the division was already in negotiations with SPERD teachers.

“Our relationship (with the local ATA) is very good,” says Miller.

Because an agreement wasn’t reached with the province, SPERD will have to wait until the government announces the budget this week to see what education funding will look like.

Miller says she feels the funding that was originally allocated for a three-year term will most likely not be there, which is a big drawback since SPERD had based financial decisions on the three-year projection that was given last year.

SPERD has been given direction from the community that items such as small class sizes are important, along with programs that sometimes fall outside of SPERD’s mandate, such as the Family School Liaison Worker (FSLW), and those things will be considered during negotiations.

“The supports that support the teachers are very important and we need to keep that all in place for children to learn,” says Miller, adding, the upcoming budget may result in a “huge ripple effect,” since it could also affect local municipalities that help fund programs, such as the FSLW program.

SPERD has recently posted its guiding principles on its website, which is helpful for the community to see since it explains how the board approaches making decisions, says Miller.

Lac La Biche-St. Paul-Two Hills Wildrose MLA Shayne Saskiw met with SPERD last week to discuss the rejection by the ATA on the deal from the province.

Saskiw says the meeting was very constructive.

At this stage, everyone wants to ensure that students are the primary focus, says Saskiw. He adds that the Wildrose is sitting back and playing a supportive role, and hopes to see something get done.

“The last thing we want is months and months of uncertainty,” says Saskiw, adding, it’s important to respect all parties in the negotiations and respect their rights in the negotiations.

Carmen Glossop, the Greater St. Paul ATA Local president confirmed by email to the Journal that she had also met with Saskiw to discuss the ATA’s views on the most recent contract proposal from Minister of Education Jeff Johnson and how disappointed the ATA was with the offer.

“The minister’s offer is unacceptable,” said ATA President Carol Henderson in a press release from the ATA last week. “There are no provisions for placing reasonable limits on the amount of time that teachers can be assigned to work by their employer boards, and what provisions there are for limiting the amount of time teachers are in the classroom are full of loopholes. In financial terms, it is actually worse for teachers than what he proposed in December. Finally, there still remains the need to guarantee stability for teachers just as it guarantees stability for school boards and the province.”

Henderson added that teachers are actively involved in bargaining with school boards across the province.

“School boards exist for a reason, and local teachers are working with them to negotiate collective agreements as has been the norm,” she said. “We’ve said no to the minister’s offer, but yes to collective bargaining, and yes to fair solutions with locally elected school boards.”

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