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Edmonton Public Schools teachers accept new deal, avert strike

Teachers with Edmonton Public Schools won’t be hitting the picket lines after accepting the board’s latest offer that includes a professional development fund and support for educators working virtually.

More than 1,600 teachers met Sunday afternoon at the Edmonton Expo Centre, voting 95.6 per cent in favour of the school division’s latest proposal. It cancels out the strike vote that was scheduled to take place this week.

Specific items in the offer include a paid professional development fund, limits on class sizes and parameters for online teachers, and compensation for administrative staff for work completed outside the school year.

There are also academic calendar changes that would guarantee a fall break for staff, students and families in November.

heather quinn, edmonton teachers
Heather Quinn is president of Edmonton Public Teachers local 37. She says a reduction in the number of teachers and educational assistants next year will have a substantial effect on students’ education. (Submitted by the Alberta Teachers’ Association)

“With any negotiations, it’s a little bit of give and take … but I think teachers were pleased with what we finally landed on,” Heather Quinn, president of Edmonton Public Teachers local 37, said in an interview Monday.

While teachers with Edmonton public have been without a finalized collective agreement since September 2020, they have been at the bargaining table since September 2022. 

Frustrations continued into September 2023, but members rejected a strike vote in October.

Quinn said the board had asked the union, which represents about 7,000 contracted and substitute teachers, to go back to the table in December over a second proposal. After that offer was also turned down, a strike vote was scheduled to be held from Jan. 14 to 17.

She said the board reached out on Dec. 22 with a third deal, which postponed the strike vote.

After members gathered on Sunday to walk through what that proposal looked like to consider it, they voted in favour of acceptance of it, averting strike action. 

“Nobody wants to be on strike and I think some of the things that were achieved within this agreement give both sides some peace of mind,” Quinn said.

Veronica Jubinville, a spokesperson for Edmonton Public Schools, told CBC News in a statement the board is pleased the union ratified the division’s recent proposal.

She said the next step is the board of trustees’ ratification before preparing a new collective agreement.

“While we cannot get into specifics until full ratification, the latest offer includes improvements to five areas that teachers have told us are important to them,” Jubinville wrote.

According to the Alberta Teachers’ Association, 53 out of 61 local bargaining units, including Edmonton public, have reached an agreement. The eight that remain represent approximately 7,600 teachers.

Quinn said the potential for a job action sends a clear message about teacher resolve and their willingness to take a stand against the school board.

“They came out on a –34 degree afternoon when they could be at home with families or preparing lesson plans,” she said.

“I think it really speaks to what they consider to be important.”

The school board will vote to ratify the agreement on Jan. 23.

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