The last round of central table bargaining required a divisive set of recommendations from a mediator to conclude an agreement. Those recommendations were approved by a razor slim margin of 51 per cent to 49 per cent.
This may have been an ideal outcome for a mediator, whose recommendations seemed to have provided just enough to get the deal done without overdelivering. Many teachers, however, left feeling dissatisfied and divided.
Negotiations are never easy, and they are rarely satisfying. By their nature, negotiations require compromise. Without at least some compromise, an agreement will never be possible.
The agreement — or in this case, the vote on a mediator’s recommendation — is the last step in a complex process. Negotiators need lots of good information from their constituent members to guide them through the process. That information comes in the first step of the process.
Last week, the ATA began that process for the next round of central bargaining with the release of the bargaining needs survey. It is vitally important that as many members as possible complete this survey.
Not only do the results of the survey help negotiators decide what to put into the opening position for bargaining, they provide information about priorities, strengths of conviction and the conditions that would be necessary to make compromises at the table.
Inevitably, when our negotiators advance and push for a bargaining improvement, their counterparts at the table push back. Take benefits for example. We want to improve the health and wellness benefits available for members, but the employer is concerned about the growing cost of premiums. They might ask questions at the bargaining table to gauge the reaction: “If we agree to improve the level of benefits, will teachers agree to pay part of the premiums?” It is valuable for our negotiators to be able to say with confidence that members contemplated those questions and provided clear preferences.
To that end, a survey is not necessarily intended to provide a scientifically valid sample representative of the broader teaching population. Rather, it is intended to provide important information that negotiators can use to inform strategic positions in bargaining and it is used as a data source that negotiators can refer to reinforce the strength of their positions at the table.
We need to have as many teachers as possible complete this survey.
The act of surveying is also important, in and of itself, to bolster our bargaining strength through the broad engagement of members. Getting members thinking, sharing and talking about bargaining issues supports member engagement and solidarity.
I suspect that, as a loyal ATA News reader, you do not have to be convinced of the need to complete the survey. So instead of doing that, I urge you to convince 10 of your colleagues to complete it.
There are a million excuses not to complete the survey:
- I have no time.
- I don’t really understand bargaining.
- I’m too busy.
- I didn’t know about it.
- I forgot.
- I’m overwhelmed with work.
- I’m tired of surveys.
- I couldn’t find the link.
- I just want action.
- I don’t like the questions.
- It doesn’t matter, nothing will change anyway.
- It takes too long.
- It’s not important.
- Did I mention I’m busy?
Prepare yourself to respond to the excuses and help your colleagues realize that these are just excuses. If we want things to change, we need to engage. And engagement starts with this one step that takes only about 20 minutes.
Find the link under collective agreements at the ATA website. You have until March 1 at 4:30 pm to complete the survey. You have until March 1 at 4:00 to convince 10 colleagues to do the same.
I welcome your comments. Contact me at email@example.com
ATA News Editor-in-Chief