We are teachers. We love what we do, and we are committed to public education. At the moment we are mired in the negotiation of a new contract. Teachers want an environment in the schools which allows them to do their job well and provides students with an excellent learning environment. In the past, teachers have given wage concessions to preserve reasonably sized classrooms and supports for students with different learning needs. Between 1998 and 2000, teachers sacrificed, receiving no wage increase in order to guarantee lower class sizes and improved support for students with special needs. However, the contract imposed on teachers in 2001 took most of these negotiated classroom guarantees away.
Today teaching and learning conditions are worse than they were in 2000, and for the past two decades, teacher salaries have not kept up with inflation. As respectful citizens we wonder what is fair and reasonable to ask for in this “economic climate.”
The government would like to impose a “net-zero” contract because it claims it doesn’t have any “new” money for education. However, it turns out that not everyone is accepting wage freezes. According to the Hay Group (a leading strategic management firm) the “average actual salary increase realized in 2011 was 2.7 per cent” in Canada (Aug. 23, 2011). As well, in both 2010 and 2011 BC Nurses received a three per cent salary increase. Annual inflation has averaged 2.2 per cent in BC in 2011 (RBC).
Our conclusion? It is not shameful for teachers to be asking for a fair salary increase, in addition to better teaching and learning conditions. If our province can afford to spend the better part of a billion dollars for a new roof over BC Place, it can certainly afford to keep a solid roof over the B.C. education system.
Norma Jean and Graham Gomme