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

Q & A: Collective agreement vs. contract — what’s the difference?

September 27, 2016 Gordon Thomas

Question: I understand that my collective agreement expired at the end of August. Do I still have a job? What am I going to get paid? Should I call central office and work out an agreement so my employment continues and I have a paycheque?

Answer: You don’t need to call your central office. Let’s start at the beginning. Your contract of employment is different from your collective agreement. Your contract, a requirement set out in the School Act, means that you are an employee of your school board. For most teachers, it is a continuing contract. That’s what it does: it continues from year to year. Your assignment may change and your school may change, but your employment with your school board does not. A new teacher will have a probationary contract (time certain for a school year) or, if replacing a teacher on leave, a temporary contract (a contract for a time-certain period). If you are uncertain of your employment status or need clarification, you should contact Barnett House or SARO and ask to speak to the Member Services duty officer.

The status of a collective agreement is not related to your contract of employment. The collective agreement governs many terms and conditions of your employment, including your salary. The Labour Relations Code provides for bridging provisions after an agreement expires while bargaining is underway to conclude a new collective agreement. Therefore, you will continue to be paid as outlined in your collective agreement.

For more on bridging provisions within collective agreements, see the article “Things that expire” on page 4.


Your collective agreement is negotiated by your representatives in accordance with the Public Education Collective Bargaining Act. The Alberta Teachers’ Association is currently engaged in central table negotiations in the pursuit of new collective agreements for its members, and you can follow the updates on our website. If you have not yet signed up for an ATA account, you need to do so — that’s the best way to follow bargaining. In addition, ratification of a memorandum of agreement reached at the central table will occur through electronic balloting for which you need to be signed up. If you have questions about your collective agreement, you should call Barnett House and ask to speak to the Teacher Welfare duty officer.

In sum, your contract of employment speaks to your individual employment with your board. You will continue to be paid while negotiations are underway to reach a new collective agreement. (Of course, that ends if teachers go on strike or are locked out by their school board, but we are nowhere close to anything like that.) You have no reason to call central office to work out an agreement on employment or salary. ❚

Questions for consideration in this ­column are welcome. Please address them to Gordon Thomas at Barnett House (

Also In This Issue