This week marked the beginning for teacher bargaining. Both provincial and some local tables met to arrange dates and agree on bargaining protocols.
Since our last round of bargaining, teachers have fallen behind other Canadian jurisdictions in a variety of areas. With respect to salary, teachers have gone from 3rd in the country (behind Alberta and Ontario) to bottom of the pack, now lagging behind the prairie provinces as well. A teacher in Alberta makes $15,000 more than a teacher in BC. A teacher in Ontario makes about $10,000 more than a teacher in BC.
Teachers are also behind in preparation time (less than half of what Ontario teachers receive). We have not had improvements in benefits in 18 years.
The government, meanwhile, continues to assert it's "net zero" mandate. This is simply a statement that their position is to spend net zero. Of course, every bargaining session opens with positions that are often apart. I believe "opening position" is a better description than mandate. There is no law in place requiring the net zero, nor in fact has the government lived up to it - nurses singed a deal with 3 percent increases.
Although the recent HSA agreement, which met the net zero, was ratified by members, the ratification numbers were noticeably low - 57%. The CUPE members in the same bargaining group voted 97% against the deal. This shows BC workers growing dissatisfaction with a mandate more grounded in ideology than economics.
In fact, in the ten years of Liberal government in BC, the CPI index has increased 19% while public sector wages have increased less than 17%. It is time to reverse this trend and acknowledge that dedicated public servants are just as deserving of wage increases as anybody else.
Some good news reporting on teacher bargaining this week: