Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Minister to teachers: freezes or cuts, your choice

The Calgary Herald is reporting that Education Minister Jeff Johnson has attempted to restart province-wide “negotiations” between teachers, school boards and the province that went off the rails in late 2012.

Those 2012 negotiations saw the teachers offer pay “raises” of zero, zero, one and three percent over four years in exchange for caps on instructional time. The province balked because instructional time caps might affect some small (i.e., rural) school boards negatively.

Now Johnson is shopping around a proposal offering zero, zero, zero and two percent “increases”. Plus there are some one-time payments (i.e., they don’t change long-term compensation) of one percent in each of years three and four.

So basically Johnson’s trying to grind off half of the long-term increases offered by the teachers in exchange for instructional time caps. Oh, and also there is meaningful no cap on teaching time.

Now we’d all like to have our cake (no teacher work stoppages) and eat it too (insanely low raises stretching out into a future where costs will rise and no meaningful cap on instructional time, which would entail a rollback of some contract provisions already won). But we also know that no union is going to recommend such a lousy deal.

Johnson has “sweetened” the offer by saying, if the teachers don’t sign before the budget drops on March 7, then he’ll legislate this and hinting maybe there will be salary rollbacks and/or layoffs:
“I must stress these incentives – both financial and the membership of the Exceptions Committee – will not be carried over if we need to reach a deal after the provincial budget is tabled.”
The minister writes that his proposal means teachers will remain the best paid in any Canadian province, and “prevent the possibility of salary rollbacks.”

He adds: “I also want to minimize as much as possible reductions in teaching staff.”
"Well, sign me up!" say the teachers. Oh no, wait, they are actually giving the minister advice about sex and travel. Lip reading is indeed a tricky business. Fortunately, the sign language helped.

There is, of course, no real reason why this deal wouldn’t be available to teachers after March 7 (the budget will be the same regardless), except that the Tories are trying to stop what is looking like it will be a(nother) ugly fight in a spring where they have been battered on a daily basis. Attempting to bully the union just drives the membership together to resist and will eventually result in work-to-rule campaigns and/or work stoppages.

It will also undermine the personal support the premier derives from parents and teachers that won her the leadership. It is unclear if the Tories don’t understand this. Or, more interestingly, perhaps some of them do understand the impact this is having on the Premier’s “base” and are pushing this agenda intentionally.

-- Bob Barnetson


  1. Interesting post by daveberta along the same lines:


  2. The ATA reply is here:


  3. And here is Johnson's proposal to the ATA and ASBA:


  4. Apparently the Minister is unhappy that ATA said no.