Media Release

Palliser teachers authorize strike vote

Palliser teachers refused to be swayed by an ultimatum issued from school board bargainers and are instead opting to move toward taking a strike vote.

On Monday, at a meeting attended by over three-quarters of members, teachers voted 92 per cent in favour of authorizing the Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA) to apply for a government-supervised strike vote. The vote came after teachers rejected the school board’s last offer in local bargaining by the same margin.

“Palliser negotiators said there would be no bargaining table to come back to if teachers rejected their offer. It was a threat that our teachers did not take kindly to, and they strongly voted that offer down. At the end of the day, it offered no noticeable improvements over the status quo.”

—Natalie Townshend, Palliser ATA local president

Townshend says that teachers are looking to address substitute teacher recruitment and retention issues and compensation for teachers working in colony schools. The school board reports that there are no issues with substitute teacher availability, but teachers know this is not true.

“We are expecting over 400 teacher days this year where teaching positions will go unfilled. When this happens, classes are combined and teachers are pulled away from doing work to prepare for lessons. Sub shortages have a real, significant impact on the quality of education students receive.”

—Natalie Townshend, Palliser ATA local president

Townshend says that teacher bargainers are offering solutions to these problems that are low cost and consistent with settlements achieved in every other school division across the south of the province. She is urging school board bargainers to return to the bargaining table, or the ATA will be forced to ask the mediator to write out of the process and initiate next steps toward strike action.

“If the board refuses to negotiate, we have no other options left.”

—Natalie Townshend, Palliser ATA local president

Collective bargaining for teachers in Alberta is a two-phase process where matters of significant cost and broad impact are negotiated at a central table, followed by local negotiations between individual school divisions and ATA bargaining units on other, more locally specific, matters.

Of 61 school divisions, 55 have already settled for this round of bargaining. Teachers in Palliser School Division have been working without a finalized collective agreement since September 2020.

The Alberta Teachers’ Association is the professional association of teachers in Alberta and acts as the bargaining agent for all teachers employed in public, separate and francophone school divisions. The Palliser School Division employs approximately 700 contracted and substitute teachers in public schools in Coalhurst, Coaldale, Picture Butte, Vulcan and surrounding areas, as well as 17 Hutterian colony schools and 10 alternative schools in Calgary.

For more information or to arrange an interview, contact Natalie Townshend at 403-360-6337.