Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of February 7, 2005
Gov't steps into school board contract upset
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Catholic teachers here have scored a small victory with the recent announcement the Alberta government is stepping into their contract dispute with the school board.
Teachers have been requesting mediation for weeks, with the board insisting that negotiations be held locally with no outside intervention. That changed Jan. 28 when the province announced it was putting a dispute inquiry board in place to work with both parties.
"We were finding it increasingly difficult to negotiate with our board so we are willing to accept any help that the government can offer," said Shauna Pahl, president of the Alberta Teachers' Association local. "We are definitely grateful the government decided to step in."
"We certainly have reservations about the process, but now that the dispute inquiry board is in place we are willing to do our best to work with the adjudicator to get a deal done right here," said board spokesperson Immanuel Moritz.
Both parties are hoping for some kind of resolution to the conflict within six weeks.
"I think teachers are hoping that the inquiry board will look at some of the issues that the board was not willing to look at at the negotiating table," Pahl said.
The two sides have been at odds for almost two months, with the board locking out its 165 teachers Dec. 13. The teachers went back Jan. 11 after both parties decided to continue negotiations with the students in the classroom.
The teachers, who have been without a contract since August 2003, had voted to strike the week before they were locked out. The main issues in the dispute are wages, retroactive pay, classroom time and a health spending account.
"We are looking for similar salary, working conditions and benefits as the public teachers in this city," Pahl said.
The board says it doesn't have the $4.3 million that it would cost to meet all the teachers' demands and has steadily refused 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 December, the province intervened in a similar dispute in the Parkland school district, where teachers have also been without a collective agreement for more than a year.
The dispute inquiry board in the Parkland conflict was expected to report back by the end of January.
The inquiry board report on the Medicine Hat conflict is scheduled for March 11.
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