Politics
Alberta government's contract offer 'unacceptable,' teachers' union says

Alberta Education Minister Jeff Johnson

Credits: DAVID BLOOM/EDMONTON SUN QMI AGENCY

DAVE LAZZARINO, SHAWN LOGAN and JACKIE L. LARSON | QMI AGENCY

EDMONTON - Talks to give Alberta teachers a province-wide contract hit a wall Tuesday when both teachers and school boards reject a proposal from the province.

Education Minister Jeff Johnson sent an offer to the two groups last week along with a letter saying a long-term labour agreement would offer stability and security to the education workforce.

However, the deal fell short.

"Without dealing effectively with issues of assignable and instructional time, there is nothing in the minister's offer that will improve teaching and learning and very little otherwise to compel teachers to accept," said Carol Henderson, president of the Alberta Teachers Association.

Henderson said teachers have to deal with growing class numbers and more complex classes and already put in an average of 56 hours a week.

With the ATA refusal, Alberta's education minister warned of strife in classrooms with the prospect of 62 provincial school boards all haggling over local deals.

Johnson said the latest offer was the result of 2 1/2 years of negotiations with the provincial teachers' union, and the best way to ensure lasting labour peace is to ink another long-term accord.

"I'm extremely concerned ... there's going to be instability in the system, there's going to be impacts to the classroom, and those are things they're going to have to think about very carefully," he said.

"We've had five years of labour peace with teachers ... it's been great for kids, it's been great for teachers.
"I would encourage anything that's going to help us get a long-term, province-wide deal with teachers."

Johnson noted with the current financial climate, school boards are already facing cuts to their operating budgets, which could mean wage rollbacks or even layoffs should labour negotiations return to the local level.

"We're going to have some pretty dramatic challenges on the education front," he said.

"There are going to be school boards in this province that have less money to work with next year than they had this year."

Jacquie Hansen, president of the Alberta School Board Association (ASBA), called Johnson's offer a "starting point for a local discussion" but said the collective bargaining process is the place for that discussion.


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