A brief history of teacher demands

Some of the BCTF's latest demands are thinly veiled pay increases, such as removing the bottom two steps of the pay grid

Teacher strike 2012: Coming off 16% and a $4

VICTORIA – A few things have changed since the last all-out teacher strike in B.C.

That was just two years ago, when the B.C. Teachers’ Federation was coming off its second-ever voluntary agreement with a 16% raise over five years and what the union termed an “enhanced” signing bonus of $4,000. Even with special teacher-only top-ups, BCTF members almost rejected the last of the government’s big-spending pre-Olympic labour deals signed in 2006.

By 2012, outraged teachers were back on the legislature lawn, howling for another 16%, with backup vocals provided as usual by HEU, CUPE, BCGEU and other public sector unions that settled for less. Teachers had just sailed through a crippling global recession with a series of raises, but were oblivious to all that.

Last week the protest venue switched to Vancouver, where both the crowd and the demands looked a bit thinner. The signing bonus target is up to $5,000, but the raise is a mere 8% over five years (compounded, for those who passed math), plus another huge basket of cash disguised as benefit improvements and so forth. Government negotiators put their total compensation demand at 14.5%.

One obvious dodge: they want the bottom two steps of the teacher salary grid dropped. That’s simply a raise for entry-level teachers. Admittedly those are rare creatures these days with shrinking enrolment and ironclad seniority rules that allow retired teachers to monopolize substitute work.

Something else that’s changed since 2012 is that the government has granted the BCTF’s wish to bargain directly with the province. The education ministry executed a takeover of the B.C. Public School Employers’ Association after last year’s election, and installed veteran industrial union negotiator Peter Cameron. He’s backed up by long-time labour specialist Lee Doney, whose task is to keep the teacher deal within Treasury Board limits that have defined all other public sector union settlements.

Doney made it clear last week that no mediator is going to come in and “split the baby” as long as the BCTF position is so far beyond the current compensation framework.

Despite constant union complaints of low wages and deteriorating working conditions in B.C. schools, education grads remain lined up around the block hoping to get in. Why is that?

For those who have been exposed to life outside school for a while, it’s fairly simple. The job market out here in the real world is tough. And here’s how the real world evaluates a teaching job.

Start with 189 working days, each nine hours long as per the accepted definition, and the top-heavy seniority list that places the average teacher salary at around $72,000 a year. That works out to $42.32 an hour, plus a suite of benefits that most private sector employees can only dream about, starting with three months of prime-time vacation.

I am occasionally lectured by teachers that the job goes far beyond five hours in the classroom and an additional four hours a day preparing and marking. They throw out different estimates, variously defined. Alas, it’s a salaried job, and we salaried employees in the real world don’t waste a lot of time counting hours. Here’s the work, here’s the deadline, here’s the pay. Take it or leave it.

Consider another union demand that seems to be just another thinly disguised raise. The BCTF wants a large increase in preparation time for elementary school. There are no duties being added here. For this one item, government negotiators calculate the cost to taxpayers at $86.2 million every year by the fifth year of the BCTF proposal.

Tom Fletcher is legislature reporter and columnist for Black Press. Twitter: @tomfletcherbc

Just Posted

Fraser Valley fire departments form ‘strike teams’ to combat wildfires

Boston Bar, Chilliwack River Valley and Popkum departments form strike teams to fight wildfires

VIDEO: Child airlifted to hospital after crash in rural Langley

Jaws of life were used to cut off the roof of a car and free its occupants from a two-car accident.

Sometimes it’s okay to simply try

I feel like a success even though I failed at donating blood

‘Beauty amongst such tragedy:’ B.C. photographer captures nature’s trifecta

David Luggi’s photo from a beach in Fraser Lake shows Shovel Lake wildfire, Big Dipper and an aurora

Canadians fear for relatives trapped amid flooding in Indian state of Kerala

More than 800,000people have been displaced by floods and landslides

IndyCar driver Wickens flown to hospital after scary crash

IndyCar said Wickens was awake and alert as he was taken to a hospital

Ex-BCTF president ‘undeterred’ after early release from pipeline protest jail term

Susan Lambert and Order of Canada recipient Jean Swanson released early

Fast food chains look to capitalize on vegetarian, vegan trend with new items

Seven per cent of Canadians consider themselves vegetarians and 2.3 per cent identify as vegans

B.C. swimmer halts journey across Strait of Juan de Fuca after hypothermia sets in

Victoria MS athlete Susan Simmons swam for eight-and-a-half hours in 9 C choppy waters

‘Hard on water:’ Smoke not the only long-range effect of wildfires

The project began more than 10 years ago after southern Alberta’s 2003 Lost Creek fire

B.C. VIEWS: Genuine aboriginal rights are misused and discredited

Camp Cloud one of long line of protests falsely asserting title

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to march in Montreal’s Pride parade

Trudeau will end the day in his home riding of Papineau

Most Read