ATA charges Rocky View school board with unfair labour practice
The Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA) has complained to the Alberta Labour Relations Board that the board of trustees of Rocky View School (RVS) is engaging in an unfair labour practice.
The ATA filed the complaint after RVS posted the opening proposals of both parties on its website on June 1 despite an objection expressed by teacher negotiators.
Representatives of both sides met May 29 to exchange and discuss the opening proposals. The ATA objected to the board’s plan to post the information that day and in a letter sent to RVS two days later.
“We worked really hard on our principles and one of those principles is transparency,” said RVS Trustee Colleen Munro.
“Teachers are paid with public dollars. Our intention is to let the public know where both sides are starting from and to allow the public to see how both sides came to an agreement at the end of the day.”
Munro said that as of June 13, RVS had not been formally notified of the action by the ATA.
“They decided to go public with it first,” she added.
In a statement of complaint filed June 11, ATA legal counsel noted that “The School Division’s actions constitute a stark and abrupt departure from long-standing practice between the parties; they are, at the same time, a departure from the long-standing practice that has subsisted between the ATA and other school districts throughout the Province for many years.”
Munro said the board of trustees was “very clear about their intentions” to post the proposals during negotiations.
“This has always been part of our plan for this round of bargaining,” she said.
“It is something we have been working on as a board since November.”
The statement charges that the motive behind the gesture is to create a chill on bargaining efforts by encouraging the public to exert pressure on the ATA to moderate its proposals. The complaint characterizes the actions as “destabilizing” and “destructive” to the bargaining process and describes them as bargaining in bad faith.
“Negotiations work best when meaningful, trustworthy discussions are held at the bargaining table, not on websites and not through the media,” said Michelle Glavine, president of the Rocky View Local of the ATA.
“Debating proposals at the bargaining table allows both sides to discuss the issues underlying the positions, provides the opportunity for questions of clarification and allows for a candid exploration of alternate solutions.”
According to Glavine, the Rocky View board is not the only school division that is publishing or “threatening” to publish teachers’ opening positions on its website. At least six other boards are following suit.
A press release from the ATA stated: “Media reports suggest that Jacquie Hansen, president of the Alberta School Boards Association (ASBA), presented the idea to post proposals to boards as a viable option at a recent bargaining ‘boot camp’ put on by the ASBA. Hansen is quoted as pointing to British Columbia as another jurisdiction where this strategy is used.”
“We don’t need B.C.-style bargaining in Alberta,” said ATA President Carol Henderson.
“Typically, we have a good relationship with government and a constructive relationship with boards. I hope the ASBA’s boot camp wasn’t about putting the boots to teachers.”
RVS is one of 62 school boards in Alberta where collective agreements are set to expire at the end of August.
The next negotiating meeting in RVS is scheduled for the end of August.