No raises for Alberta teachers in tentative deal with province, school boards

Alberta teachers have reached a tentative deal with the Teachers’ Employer Bargaining Association, signing a memorandum of agreement, the province announced Wednesday.

'We have reached an agreement that offers significant value for teachers and for public education'

ATA president Mark Ramsankar praises the new process in negotiating contracts between teachers, the province and school boards. (CBC)

Alberta teachers have reached a tentative deal after signing a memorandum of agreement with the Teachers' Employer Bargaining Association, the province announced Wednesday.

The agreement does not include any salary increases.

 "Compensation wasn't part of the agreement at this time," said Alberta Teachers' Association president Mark Ramsankar.

The agreement covers a two-year term, starting at the end of last school year and finishing at the end of the 2017-2018 school year.

"It's a smaller term, so we're hoping to get back to the table and see if we can continue to improve where we land this time out," said Ramsankar. "We have uncertainty in the future of Alberta's economy and this was part of the process. And that's where our two sides arrived at."

Another part of the agreement includes a $75 million classroom improvement fund.

Ramsankar said the memorandum of agreement provides value for teachers, especially when it comes to improving classroom conditions, such as class sizes, more support and resources for teachers, and more time to work with students.

"A big concern with teachers has been the stress and workload, inability to get to all the needs of children and looking at the time to be able to do their work," said Ramsankar.

Details of the deal remain will confidential until it is ratified.

The two sides agreed in June on a list of issues for negotiation.

The deal comes after dire warnings of belt-tightening in economically difficult times.

Education Minister David Eggen said any negotiated salary must be both fair to teachers and affordable to taxpayers.

"The negotiations that I'm entering into will probably set the tone for many other public service negotiations that will take place in the coming weeks and months and years," Eggen said in March 2016.

"I feel the full weight of that responsibility … of setting a tone that is affordable for this province during this difficult economic time."

Now teachers will vote online whether or not to approve the agreement, while school jurisdiction representatives will vote on May 24.

After ratification, school jurisdictions will bargain with their local ATA representatives on more local matters.

The agreement is the first under the updated collective bargaining model set up by the Public Education Collective Bargaining Act, which brings the province to the table during discussions over salary.

Under the old system, Alberta's 61 school boards negotiated 61 contracts with local branches of the ATA.

"The new bargaining model worked well," Ramsankar said. "It offered us a well-defined and fair process to discuss teachers' conditions of practice with government and school boards."