The lock-out of Calgary Catholic School Teachers which began this morning is the inevitable result of years of provincial cutbacks to education says Audrey Cormack, president of the Alberta Federation of Labour.
"Years of budget cutbacks to our education system has created exhausted, stressed and overworked teachers," says Cormack. "Every school year, they are being asked to teach bigger classes, to supervise more activities, to coordinate a greater range of programming. There comes a point where there is no more blood in the stone. "Teachers are saying "enough!", and rightly so."
Shortly before the lock out, negotiations were making progress. The remaining issues surround the definition, use and remuneration for "non-teaching responsibilities". Cormack states that these issues are about stress and workload, which need to be addressed.
Cormack also strongly criticizes the School Board for deciding to go ahead with the lock-out. "The teachers do not want to disrupt the students' education. Their approach has been to minimize the dispute's effect on the students. Obviously the Board doesn't have a similar commitment."
Cormack warns the provincial government not to meddle in the dispute by invoking a "disputes inquiry board". The government used such a board in the Calgary public teachers' strike last spring to quash the strike. They have already threatened to use it in the Catholic schools' dispute. A disputes inquiry board imposes a 30-day delay on any strike or lockout while a minister-appointed board examines the issues.
"While the lock-out may be unfortunate, the solution is not to end it with an arbitrary government edict," says Cormack. "It is a sledgehammer that crashes down on the principle of free collective bargaining."
"It does not address the issues in dispute," adds Cormack, "it simply pushes the problem 30 days into the future."
"We wouldn't be in this situation had the government six years ago recognized that education is an investment, not a burden," concludes Cormack.
For more information call:
Audrey Cormack, AFL President: 483-3021 (wk) 499-6530 (cell) 428-9367 (hm)