Education Minister delivers teachers contract ultimatum to school boards.

After months of posturing and picking fights with Alberta’s teachers, it appears that Education Minister Jeff Johnson was just posturing. But what the rookie cabinet minister was trying to accomplish is still unclear.

Jeff Johnson Alberta Education Minister MLA
Jeff Johnson

Minister Johnson announced this weekend that he would back down on his ultimatum made last week that teachers accept his last minute contract demands. The Minister threatened salary rollbacks if the Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA) rejected last week’s offer. The ATA’s elected council unanimously voted to reject the Minister’s demands.

In reality, hope for any provincial-level deal ended late last year when the Alberta Teachers Association, realizing that a province-wide agreement to address long-standing workload issues was not going to be reached, walked away from the table. At that point, it became clear that negotiations would return to the local school board level (where negotiations historically take place).

As the employers of Alberta teachers, locally elected school boards should be uncomfortable with the resentful tone of Minister Johnson’s ultimatum to trustees that negotiated contracts will be required to have three years of zero salary increases for teachers (as opposed to two years of zero salary increases already proposed by the teachers’ union).

“…be aware that any negotiated deals must include wage freezes for three years and no more than a two per cent increase in the fourth year. Anything else is simply not sustainable for our education system and will not be funded by government.” Excerpt from Minister Jeff Johnson’s email to school boards.

Whether teachers and individual school boards agree to two or three years without salary increases, the point remains that teachers’ salary will have little affect on this, or next year’s, provincial budget. The outstanding question is whether the ATA and local school boards can address the long-standing workload issues facing teachers across Alberta.

Laurie Blakeman MLA Edmonton-Centre Liberal
Laurie Blakeman

The Education Minister’s directive to school boards suggests that while the government has backed away from province-wide bargaining, Minister Johnson might not shy away from interfering in local bargaining.

Provincial politicians like school boards.

When popular decisions are made, like opening new schools, the provincial government takes the credit. When unpopular decisions are made, like closing schools or no-zero policies, then the provincial politicians are more than happy to let the school board trustees take the blame.

Meanwhile, following a request by Edmonton-Centre Liberal MLA Laurie Blakeman, Alberta’s Information and Privacy Commissioner Jill Clayton announced that she will investigate whether Minister Johnson breached the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act by accessing government registries to send a direct email to thirty thousand Alberta teachers.

10 thoughts on “Education Minister delivers teachers contract ultimatum to school boards.”

  1. As you point out, Dave, whether or not the teachers take a wage freeze will have no impact on the budget, supposedly the concern of Mr. Johnson and the provincial government. Really, the only possible conclusions from this are that someone, Mr. Johnson presumably, thinks there are political points to be scored by provoking a public fight with the teachers in which school kids very well could be collateral damage, or he’s just acting like the proverbial schoolyard bully. If it’s the latter, where does the Deputy Premier get off advising us all via Tweet just to say no to bullying, any bullying…?

  2. I was one of be teachers that he emailed. I am a single female and he accessed me at my home email. Creepy, creepy, creepy, creepy.

    I did not give “Jeff”, as he signed the email, the creep my home email as a contact address. I am now going to contact the privacy commissioner and tell her how this has been bothering me. I read he is going to do it again even though he knows there’s an investigation.. Now it goes from invasive and creepy to downright aggressive and scary. Get this guy on a bus to crazy ville.

  3. As I said in a previous post,if you want to provide a consistent message, you need to have a consistent, well-thought-out plan.
    What we continue to get from the Government, virtually every day, is a phenomenal set of mixed messages, contradictions and muddled thinking.
    Best explanation for this situation – disorganized panic by a group of people who are in way over their heads.

  4. The PC’s dependence on resource revenue to fund the budget blew up big time earlier this year. Rather than accepting responsibility for a poor funding model and fixing it, the PCs are doing what they always do, they’re hanging the problem on someone else. This year it’s those darn teachers and those darn doctors, next year it will be someone else. This modus operandi is not sustainable and will unseat them in the end.

  5. It seems clear to me that Premier Redford would benefit from another major cabinet shuffle. She needs new faces in many key portfolios. I for one would like to see her strive for a much better balance of gender representation in cabinet, and I think doing so would help dispel the old boys club image that the current batch of fools projects.

    Jeff Johnson should be put in the far back benches, say in Carl Benito’s old spot (government seats on opposition side). Teachers helped her become Premier! Why is Redford letting this goofball destroy one of the few political allies she has (had) left?

  6. Joe needs to stop complaining. Especially if it’s determined that the Minister broke the law.

  7. Do you really believe that Jeff is working independently from the Premier? Dream on – he is just the guy in front – the cannon fodder so to speak!
    What Jeff says and does is at the command of his boss, better known as the premier. No one steps out of line in this govt. so cabinet switches and any other changes of the chairs on the Titanic does not change the orders from the bridge!
    The voters always get the govt they deserve!

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