Week of December 11, 2000
Teacher ink pact with school district
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Edmonton Catholic teachers will get a salary hike as well as improved health benefits following successful contract negotiations with the school board.
Under a two-year collective agreement approved by the teachers Nov. 28 and ratified by the board Nov. 30, the district's 2,000 teachers will get a 3.2 per cent salary increase retroactive to Sept. 1 with a further increase of 0.2 per cent effective Feb. 1.
The increase puts Catholic teachers' salaries ahead of public teachers' salaries by a slight margin of 0.1 per cent.
The agreement also provides for a 13-per-cent increase in the district's contributions to teachers' benefit plans. The contributions will increase from the current 72 per cent to 85 per cent by the end of the year.
The agreement will be open in the second year to negotiations for salaries and a limited number of other issues. This means the parties will continue talking throughout the year.
The contract negotiations were the smoothest in a long time, noted Gerry McHugh, spokesperson for the Alberta Teachers' Association local.
"I was happy with these negotiations because both parties got along very well," he said. "We settled at a local level. We didn't have anybody outside come and help us. I've been doing this for 25 years and this one was very nicely handled.
"We achieved some major gains without any animosity."
Board spokesperson Patrick Connolly was also pleased with the outcome of the talks.
"The process that we followed allowed us to really deal with issues and come up with answers that work to the betterment of both the administration and the teachers," Connolly said.
Connolly said the board and union will continue to discuss issues such as teachers' professional development, lunch-hour supervision in schools and substitute teachers' pay.
These issues are detailed in a series of "letters of understanding" approved by the parties during negotiations and will be brought to the negotiating table in the spring.
McHugh said the union would like to see a "different method" of remuneration for substitute teachers. Substitutes are now paid a daily rate of $139.
"We have agreed to look at substitute teachers to ensure that we are paying them in such a way that we are able to ensure that it's fair, to ensure that we are able to recruit substitutes and retain them," said Connolly, the board spokesperson.
The lunch-hour supervision issue is a sticky one because some schools have decided to spend the money for supervision on computers and other educational resources.
As a result, "right now some teachers don't even get a lunch hour because they have to supervise the kids outside and in the school, " McHugh said. This is especially true "in small schools where you don't have as many teachers."
One possible solution is to return to the practice of hiring lunch-hour supervisors from the community or parent groups, Connolly and McHugh agreed.