Beautiful Plains teachers ratify new contract

·2 min read

The Manitoba Teachers’ Society is lauding a new collective agreement between a rural school division and its teachers as a “turning point” in public-sector bargaining in the province.

The union, which represents upwards of 16,000 public school teachers in Manitoba, announced Friday members of the Beautiful Plains Teachers’ Association have unanimously voted to ratify a new agreement.

The new contract in Beautiful Plains, which encompasses Carberry- and Neepawa-area schools, includes a 1.6 per cent salary increase for 2018-19 and a 1.4 per cent increase for 2019-20. All teachers will then receive a $500 bonus going into the third year.

Substitute instructors will also receive a three per cent bump in pay.

MTS president James Bedford said Friday the agreement is the first one to be reached in the public sector after Bill 28 was introduced and, more recently, overturned in a court challenge.

“It’s a statement that employees and employers can sit down (and) reach a negotiation that’s good for both parties, and that results in what really is inflationary protection,” said Bedford.

Introduced in 2017, Bill 28, the Public Services Sustainability Act, seeks to regulate salary increases for public-sector employees over a four-year-period. It proposes a wage freeze for the first two years, followed by an increase of 0.75 per cent and in the final year, a one per cent hike.

Last summer, the Manitoba Court of Queen’s Bench overturned the legislation, calling it a “draconian measure” that reduced unions’ bargaining power.

The Pallister government is appealing the decision.

Meantime, the Beautiful Plains agreement marks the third time in the last year teachers have been awarded increases that counter the legislation.

The Beautiful Plains situation suggests divisions don’t need guidance from the province to reach agreements with staff, Bedford added.

Earlier this month, the education department informed Manitoba superintendents divisions must now obtain “a bargaining mandate” from cabinet’s public-sector compensation committee prior to engaging in negotiations with both unionized and non-unionized staff.

Maggie Macintosh, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press