This is a legacy provincial website of the ATA. Visit our new website here.

Manitoba teachers storm legislature

The 300 delegates to the annual general meeting of the Manitoba Teachers' Society (MTS) stormed the Manitoba legislature on May 23 to protest government proposals aimed at stripping their collective bargaining rights.

"There is nothing as draconian as these proposals anywhere in Canada," said MTS president Ken Pearce. "Teachers are angry on a level I've never seen before. And it's no wonder. Our bargaining rights will become a mere shell of what they are now—we'll all be reduced to collective begging.

The Teacher Collective Bargaining and Compensation Review Committee report, which one Manitoba opposition MLA has called "the equivalent of the War Measures Act for education," would give school boards a huge advantage in contract negotiations. Teachers would be left with as few as a half dozen negotiable and arbitrable items.

Non-negotiable items would include the selection, appointment, assignment and transfer of teachers; the length of the school day, including opening and closing times; and the scheduling of professional development days.

Teachers would no longer be able to arbitrate general duties, class size, methods of evaluation, recess and lunch times, general provisions for absence and sick leave, and general provisions for layoffs.

Even the remaining items, like salary, benefits and preparation time, would be negotiated and arbitrated in a system weighted heavily in favor of boards. The committee recommends that boards' "ability to pay"—which has been eroded by shrinking provincial grants—guide arbitrators' decisions.

"The school boards 'ability to pay' may be very different from its 'willingness to pay,'" said Pearce, adding that the government refused MTS' request that ability to pay be based on criteria acceptable to both the government and MTS.

The government will introduce legislation this month incorporating the proposals. The legislation is expected to pass in the fall.

Manitoba teachers secured collective bargaining rights in 1948. They gave up the right to strike in 1956 in exchange for a system of binding arbitration.