Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers Association president Lily Cole. ((NLTA))

The Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers Association is warning members they could be in for a rough round of bargaining with the provincial government.

NLTA president Lily Cole has sent teachers a memo describing the government's opening offer as an attack on existing rights and benefits.

In a copy obtained by CBC News, Cole says the offer amounts to "contract stripping."

She cautions, however, that this is the government's opening bargaining position.

"We note that a number of the employer proposals constitute a significant attack on existing teacher rights and benefits and can only be considered as contract stripping," Cole wrote in the Sept. 14 letter.

"These are opening proposals only and should be considered in that light."

While they're early in the process, Cole says, the final contract will depend on teachers' resolve to keep what they already have.

The teachers' contract expired Aug. 31.

The two sides exchanged their first proposals on Sept. 10. Negotiating sessions are scheduled for October and November.

In 2009, teachers accepted a wage package that gave them an increase of about 21.5 per cent over four years.

It followed a contract that saw a two-year wage freeze, followed by two years of consecutive three-per-cent annual increases.

As part of that deal, the provincial government also invested nearly $2 billion from the 2005 Atlantic Accord advance payment into the teachers' pension plan.

The pension plan had been carrying an unfunded liability for years, and at one point was even expected to become bankrupt by 2014.