Alberta introduces 2-table bargaining for teachers

Bill 8 would give government bigger role in contract talks

The Alberta government will have a more prominent seat at the bargaining table when the province negotiates with teachers next summer, should a new restructuring plan get the go-ahead in the legislature.

On Nov. 26, Alberta’s education minister David Eggen introduced Bill 8, otherwise known as the Public Education Collective Bargaining Act, which if passed would create a formal two-table model for negotiating future collective agreements.

As well, a new group — the Teachers’ Employer Bargaining Association — would be established and combine government and school board representatives in contract talks with the Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA).

Eggen said the legislation helps to formalize the roles of all stakeholders.

“It also retains school boards’ autonomy to address local conditions that affect their local teachers. This system puts all the affected parties, including government, at the bargaining table in a transparent way,” he said.

Certain issues still need to be hammered out — such as which provisions will be negotiated at the local or provincial level, organizational structure and the level of government involvement.

While details remain scant, the two-tiered system bears resemblance to the new bargaining rubric Ontario introduced for its teachers which was tested earlier this year.

Under Alberta’s current system, school boards negotiate directly with the teachers’ unions on all terms of the contract, with the government only informally involved.

President of the ATA Mark Ramsankar said it is important that the government take on a more active role in the process, adding that, “the association will work with government and school boards to create an effective bargaining structure that will meet the needs of teachers, students and the public.”

Should it pass, Bill 8 would take effect Jan. 1, 2016 — well ahead of the expiry of each of the province's 61 current collective agreements with teachers, on Aug. 31.

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