Teachers’ Union tells the Alberta to pay up

StatsCan changes its index formula. Now Alberta is scrambling.

Alberta’s teachers wanted more pay. The province agreed. But nobody expected wages to go up this much. In 2007, Alberta’s Teachers’ Association signed a five-year collective agreement with the province, which pegged teachers’ salaries to Statistics Canada earnings index. Early this year, it was announced that teachers’ pay would be boosted 4.85 per cent. And everything
was OK. But then in March, StatsCan changed the way it calculated the index. And that left the Alberta government scrambling to find an extra $23 million to cover the increase—at the same time that the province’s finance minister is expected to announce a $6.9 billion deficit. The union says the province must honour its agreement, pointing out that the province could have instituted new taxes to cover the disputed sum. “The province’s general fiscal situation is beyond the power of Alberta teachers’ influence,” a spokesman for the Alberta Teachers’ Association said on Tuesday. “We, for example, didn’t decide that we were going to forgo an increase in liquor taxes that would have paid for the cost of this increase four times over.” But the province says it simply doesn’t have the dollars. Meetings are scheduled to take place this week.