Alberta teachers withdraw from talks with boards, province

The union representing the province's teachers is proposing a four-year deal that freezes teachers’ salaries for two years before a four per cent pay hike over the final two years.

“We want to ensure labour peace and stability in Alberta’s schools and we recognize the Redford administration’s desire to be fiscally responsible,” said Carol Henderson, president of the Alberta Teachers Association, which represents 42,000 teachers.

Teachers have been without a contract since the beginning of September.

Today teachers announced they are pulling out of talks with Alberta school boards and the province after months of negotiations, saying "further progress is not possible."

The education minister has already rejected the proposal without explanation so they are shopping the deal directly to Premier Alison Redford, Henderson said.

But Jeff Johnson said he was working towards a province-wide deal by the end of next week and was surprised by the teachers' decision to walk away from discussions.

"I believe we were fairly close," he said Friday.

The ATA proposal would freeze teachers’ salary grids in 2012–13 and 2013–14 and limiting further increases to one per cent in 2014–15 and three per cent in 2015–16.

There would be no strikes or lockouts for the duration of the agreement, extending the ATA’s record of labour peace to nearly a decade, Henderson said.

Henderson said teachers will be reluctant to accept the deal unless workload issues are addressed.

The proposal includes measures to reduce the time teachers spend on non-instructional tasks such as volunteering and supervision, she said.

"Increased use of technology, increasing diverse classes, inclusion of students with special learning needs and growing expectations that learning will be personalized are making teacher work more complex and more demanding," said Henderson.

“Our proposals on professional development and workload will focus teachers on student learning while laying the groundwork for a more flexible, individualized approach to education,” she said.

While Johnson agrees, he said he rejected a proposal of a "hard cap" on how many minutes a teacher can work each day.

He also rejected the notion of a "comfort letter" where the government would agree not to look at any changes to regulations, standards or legislation during the term of the agreement.

"I'm not going to agree to something that's going to essentially neuter the legislature or take away the abilities of MLAs to do their jobs."

Teachers are coming off a five-year deal reached in 2007. They received a 4.4 per cent pay increase last year.

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