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

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Saanich property tax notices in the mail, residents unable to pay in person

Payment options, late penalties adjusted due to COVID-19

Name of victims ‘ripped down’ from Victoria display

Organizers feel the act is ‘malicious’

Government Street becomes pedestrian-priority corridor

One block of downtown street closed to cars entirely

‘The face of Belmont’: Custodial staff at Langford school pivot to support parents, students

Staff serve as point of contact for parents, students with school

Saanich teen launches free online tutoring website

School Helpers matches volunteer tutors with students

March dental conference key to many of B.C.’s COVID-19 cases

Early infections from China, Iran were quickly contained

POLL: Are you sending your children back to school this month?

Classrooms looked decidedly different when students headed back to school for the… Continue reading

Cortes Island affordable housing project hangs by a thread

Regional decision makers resort to COVID-19 concerns despite virtual meeting option and push hearing to September

MAP: Dr. Henry reveals which B.C. regions have seen most COVID-19 cases

B.C. health officials release a first look at how the novel coronavirus has reached all corners of the province

North Island recreation camping site closed due to vandalism

Damage happens every year, forcing site manager to reallocate improvement budget to repairs

Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation woman, 26, fatally shot by police in Edmundston, N.B.

Police were conducting a well-being check at the time of the incident

Seniors to receive up to $500 in promised COVID-19 emergency aid in early July

The Liberal government first promised the extra help in mid-May, but had to create a new system to deliver the aid

VIDEO: Revelstoke bear wanders into Animal House pet store

Staff got ready to chase it out with a broom

Man found dead in his tent at Island homeless camp

Facebook posts tell of personal struggles and attempts to stay clean and sober

Most Read