Local educators concerned with collective bargaining bill

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Rocky View Schools (RVS) is among the school boards voicing concerns with the introduction of Bill 8, a collective bargaining bill, that would see a shift in method surrounding how school boards negotiate salaries.

Currently, school boards negotiate teacher salaries with local representatives from the Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA). Under the proposed bill, the government would create a new organization called the Teachers’ Employer Bargaining Association (TEBA), that would see representatives from both local school boards and the provincial government at the table.

But the timeframe in which the bill has been pushed through the legislature – less than a week – has local representatives voicing concern that their input has not been considered.

“Pushing this through in a week seems unreasonable at best,” RVS Board Chair Colleen Munro said. “We’ve been pretty active in the bargaining (process). We expected this kind of behaviour from the past government in terms of tight timelines. It’s rather disappointing that it’s being asked of us again.”

Though details surrounding the bill are yet to be developed, ATA president Mark Ramsankar said in a press release that “it’s important to have the funder at the table.”

However, according to Alberta School Boards Association (ASBA) president and RVS trustee Helen Clease, right now representatives had “more questions than answers.” “We don’t have a lot of information. We were trying to (get) more information and actually have Alberta Education come out and explain to us the direction they are going,” she said. “We have not had an opportunity as school boards to consult on this bill. We’re quite concerned.

“We have to be part of the decision-making process. You lose the ability (when) that local voice is taken away. Every school board is so diverse, so it’s pretty tough to make a decision.”

The bill went to second reading on Dec. 1. If passed, it will take effect Jan. 1, 2016, and will impact bargaining to take place after collective agreements expire on Aug. 31, 2016.

“Bill 8 puts government at the provincial table to negotiate salaries and other monetary items, which will allow us to be in a better position to meet our obligations and bargain in a manner that is fair, stable and responsible,” Alberta Education Minister David Eggen said in an email to the Airdrie City View dated Dec. 1. “We will continue conversations on regulations around this legislation and are planning further consultation with school boards even this week.

“We aim to have these important details ironed out in the coming months, so that bargaining can begin in good faith and let everyone focus on the most important responsibility we have, which is supporting and educating our students.”

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