Edmonton teachers reject new contract

Last month, teachers employed with the Edmonton School Division voted 91% to reject a tentative agreement, which had been recommended by a mediator.

Last month, Edmonton public school teachers met to review and vote on a tentative new contract recommended by a third-party mediator.

These workers, who are employed with the Edmonton School Division have been working without a finalised collective agreement since September of 2020.

Of those who attended the meeting on 22 October, 91% voted to reject the tentative agreement. On top of that, 97% of those in attendance voted in favour of a strike mandate.

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A strike mandate doesn’t automatically mean these workers will go on strike, but it does let the employer know that they’re willing to strike if they need to. A strike mandate can sometimes be used as a leverage to improve proposals from the employer.

For these workers to go on strike, they would need to participate in a government-supervised strike vote, which has not been scheduled and probably wouldn’t even be held until at least 2 weeks after the mediator “writes out” of the dispute.

According to Heather Quinn, president of Edmonton Public Teachers’ Local No 37, teachers overwhlemingly voted against the mediator’s proposal because it didn’t go offer enough improvement for two types of workers: those working in online learning and those teaching summer school and night school.

“Yesterday’s turnout of support for the bargaining team sends a very strong message to the school division,” said Quinn. “When the board has the ability to improve working conditions, like they do with online teachers, and refuses to do so, teachers feel undervalued. Last night our members indicated that we stand united with them.”

According to documents obtained by The Alberta Worker, Local 37 had proposed that so-called “off schedule” teachers—those who provide instruction outside of the regular school day timetable—be paid 1/200th of the total annual salary for each full day worked or 1/400th of the total annual salary for each half day of work.

This is common in agreements with teachers in other school districts, such as Calgary public school teachers, teachers in the Elk Island Catholic school system, which includes several schools in Edmonton; Grande Prairie public school teachers; and even teachers in Black Gold School Division, based out of Nisku, a suburb of Edmonton.

The mediator, however, recommended staying with a set hourly rate.

The previous contract had set the hourly rate to $66.31, as of 2018 for anyone teaching night school and summer school. In the mediator’s recommendations, which The Alberta Worker obtained a copy of, off-schedule teachers would have seen no increase for nearly 4 years, and even then, it’d be an extra 30¢ an hour; although that would increase a bit more over the next year or so.

1 September 2018$66.31
10 June 2022$66.64
1 September 2022$67.48
1 September 1, 2023$68.83

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By Kim Siever

Kim Siever is an independent queer journalist based in Lethbridge, Alberta. He writes daily news articles, focusing on politics and labour.

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