2007 02 16 Parkland teachers face first day of strike

Parkland School Division’s 550 teachers are starting their first day of strike action today following the failure of the division’s trustees to arrive at a fair and reasonable collective agreement. Teachers are disappointed that classes have been interrupted but have resigned themselves to the fact that Parkland trustees are simply not interested in arriving at an agreement.

The strike action is the culmination of a round of collective bargaining that began in February 2006. Unable to achieve progress toward an agreement, Parkland trustees requested the appointment of a provincial mediator. On September 19, the mediator presented recommended terms for settlement, which were promptly rejected by trustees after they had been accepted by teachers.

Relationships worsened when the trustees lodged a number of complaints with the Labour Relations Board against the teachers’ bargaining committee. With no progress achieved in bargaining, teachers authorized the taking of a provincially supervised strike vote, which was carried out on October 19. Under Alberta labour law, the teachers had 120 days in which to exercise their strike option. They waited, hopeful that negotiations would be conclusive, for 119 of those days before resorting to strike action.

The president of the Parkland Teachers’ Local, Robert Twerdoclib, said that teachers had made every effort to achieve settlement, from accepting the terms proposed by the mediator to this week’s offer of proposals for multi-year agreements. He said that this is not the first dispute that teachers have been forced into by Parkland trustees. “During negotiations for the last collective agreement, the trustees issued a lockout order that would have forced teachers and students from their classrooms and closed our schools,” he said. “Fortunately, that example of poor judgment on the part of trustees was overturned by the province.” He said that the intransigence exhibited by the trustees on that occasion has carried over to hamper negotiations in this round of bargaining.

The ongoing dispute idles more than 9,500 students in 22 Parkland Division schools located between Entwistle and Spruce Grove.

For further information, please contact Robert Twerdoclib at (780) 963-3842.