Three former Alberta Teachers Association presidents urge teachers to reject contract recommended by mediator

Three past presidents of the Alberta Teachers Association have written a strongly worded open letter Alberta public, Catholic and Francophone school teachers across the province, urging them to reject an “unacceptable” settlement recommended by a mediator in their current round of contract negotiations.

Former ATA President Frank Bruseker, right, with Progressive Conservative Premier Ed Stelmach, when Alberta Conservatives and Alberta teachers worked together for the good of students of Alberta (Photo: Alberta Teachers Association).

“The Ombudsman’s proposed settlement utterly fails to address teachers’ deep frustrations with unacceptable classroom conditions, dismisses your legitimate concerns about teacher compensation, and locks teachers into contract for more than two years at a time of great volatility. political and economic,” the letter reads. signed by Carol Henderson, ATA President from 2009-2013, Frank Bruseker, President from 2003-2009, and Larry Booi, President from 1999-2003.

The letter, ostensibly made public on social media yesterday, just before the ATA’s first in-person annual meeting in three years was to start in Calgary this morning, it may not be unprecedented in the annals of labor relations, but it is certainly unusual.

The ATA bargaining committee received the mediator’s recommendation for a province-wide collective agreement on May 6, and ATA President Jason Schilling promised members in a statement “we won’t be discussing anything else publicly until teachers have had a chance to vote on the recommendation.”

However, the ATA confirmed yesterday that it had recommended that members ratify the collective agreement.

So this public assessment by three well-known former leaders certainly doesn’t seem to give high marks to the current leadership of the ATA or the work of its bargaining committee.

Past ATA President Carol Henderson (Photo: Alberta Teachers Association).

This in turn suggests that the planned development in this space in early April after Education Minister Adrianna LaGrange introduced legislation stripping the ATA of its power to discipline teachers and replacing it with a politicized process led by a commissioner appointed by the government begins to take place.

It was inevitable that Ms. LaGrange’s bill would end the collegial relationship that a succession of Conservative governments had with the ATA and result in a much more adversarial focus on contract negotiation and enforcement by the Alberta Teachers Union.

The ATA complained at the time that Bill 15, the Education Amendment Act (Teaching Discipline Reform) Act 2022was a “flagrant power grab” and predicted that it would lead to the “notoriously bad labor relations” seen in British Columbia, the only other province to use the statutory teacher disciplinary process.

Unsurprisingly, however, on May 4, the UCP majority in the Alberta Legislative Assembly passed the bill anyway, setting the stage for union activism and labor disputes that will no doubt plague future Alberta governments, including some led by Conservatives.

The letter from the three former presidents argued that voting for the ombudsman’s recommendation would trap teachers in pay rates well below compounded inflation for more than two years after they received no pay raise during the duration of their two previous collective agreements. “Instead of offering improvements, the settlement would ask teachers to vote for their continued financial decline,” the letter said.

ATA President Jason Schilling (Photo: David J. Climenhaga).

This would happen “precisely when the Alberta government is receiving dramatic increases in revenue due to huge increases in energy prices.”

So the three former presidents asked, “Why accept falling even further behind when the government is clearly riding the roller coaster of energy revenues to some of the highest levels ever? Why tie your hands when there is clear potential for substantial gains over the next two years? »

The letter says the same arguments apply to deal with deteriorating classroom conditions. “We were told that the government was broke and could not address the concerns of teachers and parents about the failure to meet the learning needs of children. Well, they are no longer broke…”

The letter also discussed other legislative changes in Bill 15 and Bill 85 which, for example, will pass the cost of required police checks onto school boards, which will use education funds, and will also make teachers pay for an unfair disciplinary process they do not trust.

Adriana LaGrange, Minister of Education (Photo: Alberta Newsroom/Flickr).

“This government is obviously trying to bully teachers once again into accepting a totally inadequate contract, after treating them with contempt on pension issues, curriculum issues, disciplinary practices in the profession, learning supports and virtually every other matter,” the letter reads. .

“This is the way they tried to treat all public services,” the three former presidents wrote. “Other organizations have fought back effectively, and now is the time for teachers to stand up and unite in defeating this outrageous proposal.”

ATA negotiations are conducted with a group representing school boards called the Teachers Employer Bargaining Association. Bargaining at a central table focuses on monetary issues and issues affecting all teachers in the province.

After that, individual school boards negotiate with local ATA representatives on local issues. At the conclusion of these negotiations, the elements of the provincial agreement are merged with the local agreement to form a comprehensive collective agreement.

Andrew B. Reiter