Column was 'disheartening'

The Editor,

Re. “A brief history of public school teacher demands” (BC Views, Opinion, The Tri-City News, June 25).

Most teachers become teachers because they love working with students and find the job intrinsically rewarding on many levels. I put extra time and effort in because I want to.

I find columnist Tom Fletcher’s comments on teachers to be unbalanced and disheartening.

His recent column ignored the fact that teachers (unlike the other public sector employees to whom they are constantly compared) have not had a raise since 2010.

Mr. Fletcher focused on trying to prove that teachers must be overpaid or underworked, or both.

He claimed that an average teacher makes $42.32 an hour. This is ridiculous. The truth is, we work during a 43-week span that includes three weeks paid vacation plus whatever statutory holidays fall within those weeks. We are not paid for our nine-week summer vacation. During those 10 months of work, based on a nine-hour day, beginning teachers would make about $24 per hour and the “average” teacher, who has several decades of experience, would earn $38 per hour. But that nine-hour day is fiction for most of us. When you include all the marking, meetings, report-writing, preparation and volunteer activities, the true hourly rate is far less.

Mr. Fletcher’s suggestion that university graduates are lured to the profession, in part, by a great salary is somewhat dubious. The truth is, our unpaid summer vacations are great for family life, yet the teaching profession still attracts very few people who expect to be the main breadwinners in their families.

Now, for some contrast: Other public sector workers, such as firefighters and police, consistently receive better-than-average raises with no apparent public scrutiny or outcry and no strings of zeros or demands to hold the line to a one-size-fits-all formula. I have a colleague who has taught for almost 30 years and her third-year firefighter nephew makes more money than she does, with excellent time-off and benefits. Firefighters, and other “essential services” are not forced to negotiate in public and get attacked relentlessly on every front as their contracts are always arbitrated in private, and it has worked to their advantage.

Mr. Fletcher and the government would have us believe the rules are the same for everyone. Clearly, this is not the case. I hope his next column will take a fair look at the history of arbitrated settlements won by “essential service” employees who manage to fly under the public radar.

Janet Wiltshire,

Port Coquitlam

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