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Rocky View teachers feel 'disrespected' in current bargaining process, says ATA Local president

“Teachers want a settlement and do not want to escalate this issue,” Rai Nannan emphasized. “We are hoping to hear from our employer soon and resolve this in a timely manner."
Busing fees for both rural and urban Rocky View Schools students will be going up.
No deadline for strike action yet, says ATA Rocky View Local No. 35 president Amrit Rai Nannan.

Public school teachers in Rocky View School (RVS) Division, which includes Airdrie, Chestermere, Cochrane and Rocky View County, have voted overwhelmingly to request a government-supervised strike vote.

Alberta Teachers’s Association (ATA) Rocky View Local No. 35 voted 99.6 per cent in favour moving toward a strike vote at its member meeting on Nov. 26, and rejected the latest offer from the division.

The current negotiations with the division are not for salaries, which are determined by the ATA’s provincial bargaining unit, but rather for localized initiatives pertaining to work conditions and supports needed in classrooms.

Rocky View Local No. 35 president Amrit Rai Nannan said RVS teachers have felt disrespected by the school division throughout negotiations.

“The overarching feeling is the lack of respect,” she told the Airdrie City View in an interview on Tuesday. “With the high turnout to our Bargaining Unit General Meeting (BUGM) (on Nov. 26), and the high disapproval of the settlement, the message is clear (that) the employer needs to do better in addressing the concerns raised. Teacher wellness is a significant concern at this moment. We have been working without a finalized collective agreement since September 2020.”

“Teachers are being left with no options,” Rai Nannan added on a post to the ATA website about the state of negotiations. “We are feeling extremely disrespected, and we are not prepared to take an inferior offer just because the board refuses to listen to teacher concerns. The board is telling us to settle for an inadequate agreement or go on strike, but we refuse to be coerced.” 

Rai Nannan explained the ball is now in Rocky View Schools’ court. They can either choose to commit themselves to bargaining in good faith with local teachers and honestly address their concerns, or they can escalate the situation.

“They were given a binary choice,” she said; “either return to the table and listen to the teachers or the mediator will need to step aside, which triggers the two week cooling off period.”

The strike authorization vote came after teachers rejected a proposal by a third-party mediator to settle local negotiations with Rocky View Schools.

“Teachers want a settlement and do not want to escalate this issue,” Rai Nannan emphasized. “We are hoping to hear from our employer soon and resolve this in a timely manner. Teachers authorized the taking of a strike, an internal process for the ATA. If one thinks of a ladder of escalation, this is an intermediate wrung. It's meant to check the parties to ensure they really want to go down this path. The timing of a strike vote and any potential labour action is not known at this time. We want a deal, that is our focus. However, teachers will not wait forever. The longer it takes, the higher the frustration level of our members.”

Rai Nannan said while there is no specific deadline for a strike action yet, all options were on the table. 

“The longer the employer takes to return to the table and be willing to listen and address the concerns of teachers, the further we proceed down this path,” she reiterated.  

Rai Nannan was also cognizant of the stress this ongoing uncertainty might cause local parents and students.

“Teachers understand the concern and hope that parents also believe that it is important for their children's teachers to have a positive working environment,” she said. “A student's learning conditions are a teacher's working conditions. They are inextricably linked. We do not want to be at this point either. We want a settlement that addresses teachers' concerns. Our goal isn't to strike, but to work collaboratively with our employer on the concerns being brought forward and get to a resolution.”

The Airdrie City View did reach out to Rocky View School Division for comment on Local No. 35’s strike authorization vote.

“RVS values our teachers and their commitment to students,” said RVS spokesperson Jennifer Thompson in response.  “We remain focused on the collective bargaining process and are optimistic that a collaborative local agreement can be achieved.” 


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