Thursday , 21 October 2021

SPERD teachers vote to strike

Teachers employed by St. Paul Education Regional Division No 1 have voted 90 per cent in favour of authorizing the Alberta Teachers’ Association to request a government-supervised strike vote.

The teachers have been working for over 30 months without a finalized collective agreement. St. Paul Division is one of only 10 school boards in the province that have not reached a local settlement for the 2016/17 and 2017/18 school years.

A key element of teachers’ professionalism is a respectful relationship with our employer. We are asking for a small number of very reasonable improvements that would bring our agreement more in line with other teachers in the province and would be low or even no cost to the board. -Greater St. Paul Local president Connie Landsiedel

At a general meeting held last night, the teachers considered the recommendations of a government-appointed mediator and voted to reject those terms for settlement because they offered no substantial improvements over an agreement previously rejected by teachers in November. Landsiedel says an agreement should be easy, with some minor improvements to family illness, bereavement and personal leave clauses or some other no-cost improvements that would demonstrate respect from the school board.

St. Paul teachers are looking for a fair and reasonable settlement; one that follows the pattern well-established by the 50 other boards already settled. Our teachers want to be treated like their colleagues in neighbouring jurisdictions. – Greater St. Paul Local president Connie Landsiedel

Now that teachers have rejected the mediator’s terms of settlement and a legislated two-week cooling off period has commenced, neither party can take a strike or lockout vote. The authorization for a strike vote allows ATA negotiators to apply for a strike vote after the two-week period has lapsed. If a strike mandate is approved, teachers could legally strike after providing 48 hours notice to the employer.
The Alberta Teachers’ Association is the professional association of teachers in Alberta and acts as the bargaining agent for all teachers employed in public, separate and francophone school divisions. St. Paul Education Regional Division No 1 employs approximately 270 full and part-time teachers in public and Catholic schools in St. Paul, Ashmont, Mallaig, Elk Point, Hairy Hill, Heinsburg, Myrnam and Two Hills.

Board Chair Heather Starosielski’s statement in response

St. Paul Education is staffed by some 257 full-time equivalent teachers and approximately 314 support staff. Every employee whether it be a teacher or a support staff member is important to the success of our students. St. Paul Education’s decisions are guided by what is best for students. It is also recognized that teacher interests in bargaining may sometimes differ from Board priorities for students. The Board of Trustees is disappointed and surprised that in the last month the ATA has twice voted down settlements that were supported by the Local ATA Negotiations Committee, the Provincial ATA representative and the government-appointed mediator. The Board is currently evaluating and planning next steps. We will be better able to comment and release a full response in the coming days.

Although the ATA has chosen to threaten strike action, please know that St. Paul Education Board of Trustees is committed to keeping students in our schools. From our perspective, at this time it is business as usual.

When these negotiations initially began, it was the Board’s understanding that the ATA was opposed to sharing positions publically. The Board is reluctant to negotiate in the media as it remains sincere about preserving relationships. Given that the ATA has decided to provide media releases, the Board now has no choice but to respond. In the name of transparency, the St. Paul Education Board of Trustees would be fully willing to release both opening proposals, the list of items sought by both parties, and the last offer as recommended by the neutral government appointed mediator. In this way all stakeholders can be informed of the proceedings. We anxiously await a response from the ATA as to if they would be open to releasing opening proposals and fully bargaining in a transparent fashion.

We want to reiterate that the Board was pleased to reach a Memorandum of Agreement at the bargaining table with the teachers bargaining committee, and of course disappointed that this agreement reached and recommended by the teacher bargaining committee was not ratified by the teachers. The Board willingly and in good faith participated in mediation conducted by a mediator appointed by the Alberta Labour Relations Board, and accepted the recommended resolution of the mediator. The Board is exceptionally disappointed that our teachers have also now rejected the independent mediator’s recommendations.

Our Board would like to move forward consistent with a resolution as recommended by the mediator and truly hopes and trusts that our teachers will recognize the mutual value and reasonableness of doing so. Our primary focus remains the education and care of our students, including supporting, as appropriate, our teachers in accomplishing this joint and important mission.

About Jena Colbourne