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Central bargaining set to resume after COVID delay

September 15, 2020 Jonathan Teghtmeyer, ATA News Editor-in-Chief


Teachers invited to complete new survey to reflect changing context

Teacher representatives will meet with representatives of the government and school boards later this month to commence central table bargaining after a COVID-related delay was agreed to by both sides this spring.

Members of the Association’s Central Table Bargaining Committee (CTBC) will begin the three phases of bargaining by meeting with the Teachers’ Employer Bargaining Association (TEBA) to commence list bargaining to determine which topics will be discussed at the central table and which topics will be discussed at local tables. After list bargaining is completed, the central parties will negotiate the matters assigned to central table bargaining, and local bargaining will follow at individual tables for each of Alberta’s 61 public, separate and francophone school divisions.

Collective agreements covering teachers employed by Alberta school divisions expired on Aug. 31, 2020. Until a new collective agreement is reached or a work stoppage occurs, provisions of the expired collective agreements remain in effect.

“The COVID pandemic has had profound impacts on the entire education community, and both sides agreed in the spring that we could set aside collective bargaining for now while we focused our energies on COVID,” says the ATA’s associate co-ordinator for collective bargaining, Sean Brown.

“The process needs to resume, however, and we need to get to the table to start discussions on a number of important issues — old and new — that affect teachers’ work lives.”

Brown reiterated that the delay to bargaining and the expiry of the collective agreement does not affect the current working conditions for teachers. He has heard concerns from teachers that collective agreement provisions, like assignable time protections or the guaranteed 30-minute break, are no longer in effect as a result of the agreement expiry and the COVID pandemic.

“Not true,” says Brown. “All aspects of the 2018–20 collective agreement still apply and if teachers are concerned their collective agreement is not being respected, they must call us for advice.”

Bargaining survey relaunched

Teachers are being encouraged to participate in a second bargaining needs survey in order to update the CTBC on how bargaining needs have changed since the arrival of COVID.

“COVID has changed so much,” says CTBC chair and North West district representative Peter MacKay. “Teachers may have new expectations related to health benefits, family medical leave, assignable time, salaries and many other parts of their collective agreement, as a result of how COVID has impacted us and the economy.”

The initial bargaining needs survey was open from March 3 until March 23, a period that spanned over the stoppage of in-class learning amidst the growing pandemic. CTBC wants to make sure that no teachers missed the opportunity to complete the survey as a result of the pandemic’s emergence.

The new survey will reassess some areas explored in the initial survey to see if attitudes have changed and will also ask some new questions on issues related to the pandemic. The survey will remain open until Sept. 27.
The survey takes about 10 minutes to complete and can be completed using mobile devices, although a desktop or laptop computer is optimal. The survey should only be completed during personal time.

Local bargaining 2018 – 2020

Thirteen school divisions remain without local agreements for the last round of bargaining where collective agreements expired at the end of August of 2018. In some cases, local bargaining was pre-empted by COVID, but other units were able to achieve agreements since school was suspended.

“The trend for local agreements is well-established,” says Brown. “We should be able to get these units to an agreement this fall, but unfortunately some boards are dragging their feet.”

A strike was averted in the Horizon School Division when an agreement was reached after teachers there authorized the taking of a strike vote. Local bargaining reached an impasse in June and the government-appointed mediator declared that the two sides were too far apart to reach an agreement. At a general meeting on Aug. 24, teachers voted 87 per cent in favour of authorizing the ATA to request a government-supervised strike vote. The vote spurred a resumption of negotiations, and an agreement was reached on Sept. 1 and subsequently ratified by teachers.

Brown says local bargaining continues in the other remaining units, and he expects that agreements should be achievable without work disruptions. ❚


Take the survey!

A link to the fall bargaining needs survey can be found on the home page of the ATA website at Links can also be found on the Bargaining Updates and Members Only pages. The survey closes at 11 p.m. on Sunday, Sept. 27.

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