About 300 teachers employed by Northern Gateway Public School Divison voted this week in favour of authorizing the Alberta Teachers’ Association to request a government-supervised strike vote.
The authorization vote is a pre-emptive move to job action, so now teachers can apply to hold a government-supervised strike vote at any time with 48-hour notice to their employer.
Teachers in Northern Gateway have been working for over two years without a finalized collective agreement. Northern Gateway is one of only seven school boards in the province that have not reached a local settlement for the 2018/19 and 2019/20 school years.
Katrina Zack, President of ATA Northern Gateway Local No 43, says, “Northern Gateway teachers are frustrated, and disappointed that they are being treated without consideration, in light of everything they are being challenged with while teaching in the middle of a pandemic. While the teachers were trying to negotiate, the employer decided to stall the finalizing of a contract that expired two years ago.”
Zack added, “There is enough stress right now, and teachers do not need to deal with contract negotiations that could lead to job actions because the employer won’t settle on standard working conditions.”
According to a news release, at a general meeting held November 16, the teachers reviewed the last offer proposed by the division. The teachers say the offer attempts to strip their collective agreement of a number of long-standing provisions that are standard parts of collective agreements elsewhere.
Zack says a work stoppage can be avoided if the board returns to bargaining and bargains constructively in an effort to reach a reasonable agreement in line with those already signed across the province.
“Our teachers just want to be treated similarly to the over 98 percent of teachers who have settled their agreements. We are not making unreasonable demands; we just want to be treated fairly. We are prepared to negotiate if the board is willing to engage in meaningful discussions—a work stoppage is a last resort.”
A government-appointed mediator concluded that the two sides were too far apart to reach a mediated settlement and chose to “write out” of the process on November 2. This left the parties free to reach an agreement on their own or, following a two-week cooling-off period, to begin the process of moving toward a strike or lockout.
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.
Based in Whitecourt, Northern Gateway School Division employs approximately 300 full- and part-time teachers in public schools in Woodlands County, Lac Ste. Anne County, and part of the Municipal District of Greenview. It operates 16 schools, four colony schools, and four off-campus outreach programs in those areas, serving about 5000 students in Alberta Beach, Onoway, Rich Valley, Darwell, Sangudo, Mayerthorpe, Whitecourt, Fox Creek, and Valleyview.