Government approves teacher bargaining bill

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School boards will negotiate salaries for Alberta teachers with the provincial government at the table as part of a new bill passed Dec. 8 in legislature.

Bill 8, the Public Education Collective Bargaining Act, creates a new organization called the Teachers’ Employer Bargaining Association (TEBA), which will include representatives from both local school boards and the provincial government.

“(This bill) gets the funder at the table with the big money items, the funder being us, the government,” Education Minister David Eggen said. “It’s just a way to keep a close interaction with the workers on wages and other big money items. That’s never happened before in the province.”

The provincial government added amendments to the bill following protest from school boards, including Rocky View Schools (RVS), about the speed in which the bill was moved through legislature.

Prior to the amendments, the government would negotiate solely with the Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA), raising concerns among school boards that provincial decision-makers would handle issues of local significance.

Under the amendment, TEBA will negotiate with the ATA to decide what issues will be bargaining locally and provincially. RVS Board Chair Colleen Munro said although school boards weren’t 100 per cent happy with the bill, “We can live with this.”

“We’re one of the parties at the table,” she said.

“If two other people are deciding things without the other one in the relationship, it doesn’t set a good collaborative tone.”

The amendment also delayed the start of the negotiation process by one month in order to allow TEBA to become operational.

Alberta School Boards Association (ASBA) president and RVS trustee Helen Clease said school boards would get to work quickly, although they still needed information from the government as to how TEBA will function.

“There were a number of things on the table (that we needed to know), but the one that was a definite must for school boards was that we had a voice,” she said.

“We wanted to make sure that school boards had an authentic role (as) a part of the decision-making.

“We believe that local voice needs to be heard.”

The bill will now affect bargaining set to take place after current collective agreements expire Aug. 31, 2016.

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