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ATA president cautiously optimistic about new bargaining model

December 1, 2015 Cory Hare, ATA News Managing Editor

While a new teacher bargaining model introduced Nov. 26 will implement a bi-level structure as the Alberta Teachers’ Association has been advocating for, Association president Mark Ramsankar reacted cautiously to news of the government’s Bill 8.

Ramsankar said teachers are seeing the legislation for the very first time, and the Association still needs to explore its full ramifications.

“Today, the government has committed to taking an active role in bargaining — it is vitally important that the funder be at the table,” Ramsankar said. “The Association will work with government and school boards to create an effective bargaining structure that will meet the needs of teachers, students and the public.”

Ramsankar noted that much work remains to fill in the details and develop processes within the new model.

“This work will be complex, and the government has provided a short timeline for it to be completed,” he said.

If the legislature passes the bill, Alberta’s teachers will negotiate their next collective agreement with both their local school boards and a new provincial group called the Teachers’ Employer Bargaining Association (TEBA). This association would have representation from both the Alberta government and school boards in negotiations with the ATA.

“This new model will allow school boards, the government and the ATA to negotiate at a provincial table on issues that are relevant to all school boards,” Eggen said. “It also retains school boards’ autonomy to address local conditions that affect their local teachers. This system puts all the affected parties, including government, at the bargaining table in a transparent way.”

Eggen added that many details remain to be developed in co-ordination with both the ATA and school boards. This includes which issues will be negotiated at the provincial or local tables, the organizational structure of the TEBA and the extent of government’s involvement in the new organization.

Eggen added that many details remain to be fleshed out. The government will negotiate with the Association to determine, at least initially, which issues will be negotiated at the central and local tables. At the same time,  government will be consulting with school boards about the organizational structure of the TEBA and the regulations and bylaws needed to establish it. While the specifics must still be determined, the government has made clear that it will be represented on the board of directors of TEBA when negotiations with the ATA take place.

All 62 current collective agreements are due to expire on Aug. 31, 2016. If passed, the legislation would take effect Jan. 1. This would provide a clear process for all parties and allow school boards to remain focused on learning, Eggen said.

The Association has called for bi-level bargaining since 2002, Ramsankar said. Policy adopted at the Annual Representative Assembly supports the creation of a bargaining framework in which matters acceptable to the Association are negotiated at a central table, while local matters would be bargained with individual school boards.

“Bill 8 appears to move in this direction,” Ramsankar said. ❚

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