Imposed settlement for teachers a bad omen

Legislating contract undermines collective bargaining

Edmonton – Legislation to impose a four-year contract on teachers is bad news for workers all over Alberta says the province’s largest labour organization.

School boards throughout the province had been given an arbitrary deadline of 3 p.m. yesterday to ratify a deal that had been struck between the province and the Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA), the union that represents the 40,000 teachers in the province. When two bargaining units and several school boards rejected the deal, the government responded with legislation that would force them to take the pay freeze.

“By bringing forward this legislation, they’re basically saying that it didn’t matter what any of those union locals and school boards said or did,” Alberta Federation of Labour president Gil McGowan said. “Teachers basically didn’t have a choice in whether or not to accept this contract – either they accepted it, or they would have it forced on them.”

On Monday, the government announced it was tabling legislation based on a deal that had been reached between the Alberta Teachers’ Association and the province. Although the deal had been ratified by 60 of Alberta’s 62 school boards, one of the hold-outs was the province’s largest board, the Calgary Board of Education.

“This government is taking a top-down, full-throttle, my-way-or-the-highway approach to their dealings with workers,” McGowan said. “This is the same bullying approach they’ve taken with prison workers, and the same bullying approach they’re taking with post-secondary education.”

The legislation imposes a wage freeze for the first three years of the contract, and a two per cent raise in the fourth year. The legislation also includes provisions that will attempt to tackle excessive teacher hours and classroom conditions.

“Legislating the contract shows that the Redford government wasn’t negotiating in good faith in the first place,” McGowan said. “This decision has undermined their ability to be taken seriously at the bargaining table. Who is going to trust that they won’t just resort to bargaining by fiat?”



Olav Rokne, AFL Communications Director at 780-289-6528 (cell) or via email