Alberta's education minister says the province's teachers have no guarantee of future wage increases.
The province recently backed out of a promise to pay for teachers' salary hikes this fall, leaving some school boards running deficits and others cutting jobs.
Speaking at the Alberta Teachers' Association's annual meeting in Calgary on Saturday, Education Minister Dave Hancock said the province will pay for increases eventually but it needs school boards to bridge the gap.
Hancock also suggested that Alberta's teachers — who he says are among the best paid in the country — may not always get wage increases.
"If the salaries go up, then the number of positions will go down, and that's not tenable for teachers and that's not tenable for us," Hancock said.
But those comments are not sitting well with teachers.
"Ultimately, the responsibility for appropriately funding public education rests with the provincial government and there are times when I'm, quite frankly, appalled that they're not stepping up to the plate," said Jenny Regal, president of the Calgary public teachers' union.
Regal said without the promised funding, jobs will be cut, class sizes will balloon and the quality of education could suffer.
Student could suffer
Struggling students, she said, could slip through the cracks.
"If you think about the fact there's gonna be less people in the buildings and we're still going to try and do the same amount of work, something's gotta give."
Hancock is looking to extend the current five-year contract for three more years. He also said he wants to move away from salary increases and focus on issues like professional development.
The Alberta Teachers' Association said it wants to wait and see what happens with the economy before entering into talks with the province.