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Tripartite shelved

Alberta teachers are taking a 4.3-per-cent increase in their pay after talks broke down between the Alberta Teachers Association, the Alberta School Boards Association and the province.

Alberta teachers are taking a 4.3-per-cent increase in their pay after talks broke down between the Alberta Teachers Association, the Alberta School Boards Association and the province.

Education minister Dave Hancock told all three parties in a meeting held Jan. 28 that a solution was not possible, meaning the five-year framework agreement that was settled in 2007 will remain in place until it expires on Aug. 31, 2012. At that time, local collective bargaining will resume. It also means teachers will receive a salary increase, beginning Sept. 1, that will be linked to the increase in the average earnings of Albertans that occurred over the 2010 calendar year, according to the province.

In the draft agreement, called a tripartite, in exchange for foregoing the projected 4.3-per-cent increase, teachers were to spend less time teaching. Provincially, students would receive 50 fewer hours of instruction (about 10 days per year), and teachers would receive at least 12 professional development days per year.

Other elements included: the creation of a Board of Teacher Development led by teachers and including stakeholders and public representatives to provide advice to the minister of education about continuing teacher professional development; and giving school boards Natural Person Powers and the ability to appoint their superintendent without ministerial approval.

Though all three parties share a common interest in ensuring Alberta students receive the best possible education, they will not be moving ahead with an agreement at this time, said the Alberta Teachers Association and the Alberta School Boards Association in a joint statement. Both organizations stated they recognize that transformation of the education system is critical to student success and requires continuing discussions among school boards, teachers and government. They will seek further opportunities to work together in the future, stated the press release.

All three parties had been in discussions about the future of teacher collective agreements since September 2010. Securing long-term labour peace, protecting education programs and enabling meaningful education transformation, all in difficult financial circumstances, were also key topics.

Prior to the break down in talks, Pembina Hills Regional Division No. 7 had expressed concern over the reduction of instructional hours, as it was unclear how that change would impact high school completion. Trustees also believed it would limit the flexibility and resources of schools, which would impact the financial viability of rural community schools.

Following the announcement from Hancock, Pembina Hills Superintendent of Schools Egbert Stang said the board is in the dark as to what will happen now that the agreement has been shelved. Information providing direction from the Alberta School Board Association is expected, but PHRD has yet to receive that information.

“We were trying to figure out what impact the elements of the tripartite would have on our district, but now the talks are off the table, and we’re back to Square 1,” Stang said. “There is a year left in the teacher contract, and then who knows what’s going to happen. With Premier Ed Stalmach stepping down, you never know what the political landscape is going to look like, so we’ll just have to wait and see.”

All three parties realized they weren’t able to come up with an agreement, so they walked away, but there’s still a commitment to look at a collective agreement in the long term, Stang said.

“When we’re going through these processes, we all want to make sure we have an agreement that ensures a quality education for our students,” he said.