Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of January 17, 2005
Medicine Hat students back in school again
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Catholic students here are back in school after teachers and school board officials agreed to continue contract negotiations with the students in the classroom.
Classes resumed Jan. 11, a day after the board lifted its lockout of the teachers and the teachers ended their four-week long strike, which stretched over the Christmas holidays.
Keep the kids in school
"We agreed to continue to negotiate with the kids in school where they belong," said board spokesperson Immanuel Moritz.
"This shows that the teachers and the board have the best interests of the children at heart and are willing to take a step back and to rethink our positions and come back to the table and negotiate a contract that's satisfactory to both sides."
Union representative Doug Hendricks said teachers never wanted to stay away from the classroom. "The board did lift its lockout, we lifted our strike so the kids are back in school but there is no resolution to the collective agreement; we are still in the process of trying to solve it."
The board and the teachers' union are not on the same page on several issues, including pay, working conditions and medical benefits.
The parties have been unable to forge a collective bargaining agreement since last August.
The board locked teachers out Dec. 13 after talks broke down. The teachers voted in favour of a strike to back contract demands and began their action Dec. 14.
The teachers want salaries, benefits and working conditions similar to those of their counterparts in public schools.
That would include a health spending account, a weekly cap on instructional and assigned time and a salary increase of 10.3 per cent over four years, including two per cent retroactive to Sept. 1, 2004.
The board says it doesn't have the $4.3 million that it would cost to meet all the teachers' demands and is refusing to yield on demands like retroactive pay and working conditions. It says the teachers' demand for a cap on their workweek is too restrictive and could lead to teachers refusing to work after they put in their time.
In the first week of January, the board offered a 15.5 per cent salary increase over six years with a two per cent increase at the end of the first year, but the teachers overwhelmingly rejected that offer Jan. 10.
The board wants to continue negotiating locally but the teachers are losing patience. "We are of the mind that if the board doesn't move or doesn't make any changes to the last proposal we need someone else to step in and solve the dispute," Hendricks said. "We can't see it being solved locally."
The parties have not yet set a date to continue contract negotiations. The 165 Catholic teachers involved in the dispute serve about 2,535 students in schools in Medicine Hat and Bow Island.
"There is no resolution to the collective agreement; we are still in the process of trying to solve it."
- Doug Hendricks
Copyright © 1998, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009 -- Western Catholic Reporter
Our mission: To serve our readers by bringing the Gospel to bear on current issues in the Church and in secular culture through accurate news coverage and reflective commentary.