lethbridge herald WITH CP FILES
The tentative agreement between the Alberta Teachers' Association and the province could provide labour stability for the next few years and provide a way to address workload issues, but local school boards were left out of the process.
School boards only found out about it late Thursday and got details in a conference call with Johnson Friday morning, said Sandra Dufresne, chairwoman of the Holy Spirit Catholic school board.
"We've been given so little time to respond to this and he wants an answer by Sunday, which is incredibly unrealistic and unfair, frankly," she said. "The fact that the ATA and the government are going behind our backs once again - I am so angry over this.
"It wasn't even a week ago that the ATA was saying 'We're so glad to be back to local bargaining, that's where it belongs.' And here they are doing a back-door Charlie on the school boards yet again. They have made it very clear they have no respect for boards."
Dufresne said parts of the framework agreement won't serve students well and set the stage for teachers to grieve decisions made by the superintendent or the school board in regard to their work conditions.
"There is talk of limiting instructional time to 907 hours a year but there's no clarity. Is that time in front of kids? Does that include prep time and marking time?" Dufresne said. "Our superintendent is going to be shop steward."
Premier Alison Redford, Education Minister Jeff Johnson and ATA association president Carol Henderson announced the proposal in Calgary Friday. It calls for wages to be frozen for the first three years, with a two per cent increase in the fourth year, along with a lump-sum payment from the government. The deal also promises to look into how much teachers are being asked to take on.
"I think it is a good thing because the agreement will be a four-year agreement and that always brings labour peace and teachers can focus on the job that we're hired to do and educate students without having to worry about labour disruption," said Pam Harrison, Lethbridge Public School ATA Local 41 president.
Teresa Landry, president of the Holy Spirit Catholic ATA Local 5, said having a multi-year agreement would provide freedom from having to bargain.
"I haven't seen the proposal in its entirety so I'm going to reserve judgment until I've had a chance to read it all thoroughly," she said.
Mich Forster, chairman of the Lethbridge Public school board, said school boards will be getting together Monday to discuss the offer in more depth.
"At this point we've had some discussion but it's really still up in the air," Forster said. "The final agreement does have to be ratified at the local level."
Previous offers from government didn't provide a comfort letter to assure the ATA the government will honour the agreement for its term.
"Huge in this new agreement is the comfort letter from the premier that says that they're not going to change their minds come September or if oil prices drop, as an example," Harrison said. "The conditions of practice in previous agreements very much excluded our people in our association."
The new tentative agreement includes ATA representation in a committee to look into workload issues, something that was vague in previous agreements. Minister Johnson said his department will conduct an internal review and a third-party study to look at how teacher workloads can be adjusted.
ATA local representatives and negotiators will be going through the framework agreement today in Edmonton, with hopes it can be ratified at each of the 62 locals by May 13. Local bargaining will continue to address any issues at the district level.