TEACHERS in the Louis Riel School Division are the latest to call on their administration to negotiate wage increases as soon as possible, before their salaries could be frozen indefinitely, owing to looming changes in the collective bargaining process.
"As teachers face the real possibility of wage freezes for the foreseeable future, the division has failed to come to the table to negotiate a fair deal," wrote Marcela Cabezas, president of the Louis Riel Teachers’ Association, in a letter to members Wednesday.
The provincial government could pass Bill 45 — legislation that will phase out 37 division contracts and replace them with a provincial collective agreement — as early as this month. If the legislation comes into force before negotiations are complete, educators in Louis Riel, Winnipeg and River East Transcona, who are working without a contract at present, will remain in limbo.
All other divisions have finalized new agreements in line with a February arbitration ruling for teachers in Pembina Trails.
The award provided teachers with a four-year contract, with annual increases of 1.6 per cent, 1.4 per cent, 0.5 per cent, and a hike the equivalent of a cost of living adjustment, between 2018-19 and 2021-22.
(The domino effect of arbitrations in the province after one contract is finalized is, in part, why the province wants to streamline bargaining.)
Winnipeg and River East Transcona teachers have been without a contract since 2018.
Last spring, Louis Riel teachers won an arbitration award for increases of 1.6 per cent and 1.4 per cent in 2018-19 and 2019-20, respectively. The union wants to negotiate a two-year contract, including retroactive payments for this year, that reflects the latter hikes issued in Pembina Trails.
In her letter, Cabezas said there is no guarantee local teachers will be able to retroactively recoup money when the first provincewide collective agreement is reached.
In a statement Thursday, the Louis Riel board said the parties have met with an arbitrator to schedule interest arbitration dates in the fall.
"(The board) is grateful for our teachers’ steadfast professionalism and commitment during this challenging year. As a matter of process, the board does not publicly comment on the particulars of collective bargaining," a spokesperson said.
A Manitoba Teachers’ Society campaign prompted droves of teachers to take to social media Thursday to tweet #fairdealforteachers in solidarity with colleagues who continue to work without a contract.
Maggie Macintosh, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Winnipeg Free Press