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

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

Aerial view of the Capital Regional District residuals treatment facility at Hartland Landfill where residual solids are turned into Class A biosolids. (Photo courtesy CRD)
Plant closure sends more biosolids to Hartland Landfill

Saanich residents are concerned they were never consulted

A COVID-19 vaccination clinic, operated by Island Health, has opened at the University of Victoria’s McKinnon Gym. (Photo courtesy of UVic)
COVID-19 vaccination clinic opens at University of Victoria

Clinic is staffed and operated by Island Health

Saanich Coun. Susan Brice and Mayor Fred Haynes are calling on the province to develop new solutions for emergency response to mental health crises with the consideration of a potential new 911 category. (Devon Bidal/News Staff)
Saanich mayor, councillor call for new solutions to mental health emergencies

Shifting response from police to trained mental health team the best option, mayor says

FILE – Oshawa Generals forward Anthony Cirelli, left, shoots and scores his team’s first goal against Kelowna Rockets goalie Jackson Whistle during second period action at the Memorial Cup final in Quebec City on Sunday, May 31, 2015. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jacques Boissinot
B.C. government approves plan in principle to allow WHL to resume in the province

League includes Kamloops Blazers, Kelowna Rockets, Prince George Cougars, Vancouver Giants, Victoria Royals

Langley resident Carrie MacKay shared a video showing how stairs are a challenge after spending weeks in hospital battling COVID-19 (Special to Langley Advance Times)
VIDEO: Stairs a challenge for B.C. woman who chronicled COVID-19 battle

‘I can now walk for six (to) 10 minutes a day’

Left: Oakland County Jail. Right: Canuck Todd Bertuzzi on November 2, 2005. (CP/Chuck Stoody)
Former Vancouver Canuck Todd Bertuzzi arrested for suspected DUI: report

The Canadian winger had a complicated history in the NHL

The south coast of B.C. as capture by the Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission. (European Space Agency)
VIDEO: Images of B.C.’s south coast from space released by European Space Agency

The satellite images focus on a variety of the region’s landmarks

A copy of the book “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street,” by Dr. Seuss, rests in a chair, Monday, March 1, 2021, in Walpole, Mass. Dr. Seuss Enterprises, the business that preserves and protects the author and illustrator’s legacy, announced on his birthday, Tuesday, March 2, 2021, that it would cease publication of several children’s titles including “And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street” and “If I Ran the Zoo,” because of insensitive and racist imagery. (AP Photo/Steven Senne)
6 Dr. Seuss books won’t be published for racist images

Books affected include McElligot’s Pool, On Beyond Zebra!, Scrambled Eggs Super! and The Cat’s Quizzer

The fundraising effort to purchase 40 hectares west of Cottonwood Lake announced its success this week. Photo: Submitted
Nelson society raises $400K to save regional park from logging project

The Nelson community group has raised $400,000 to purchase 40 hectares of forest

AstraZeneca’s vaccine ready for use at the vaccination centre in Apolda, Germany, Sunday, Feb. 28, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Michael Reichel/dpa via AP
National panel advises against using Oxford-AstraZeneca’s COVID-19 vaccine on seniors

NACI panel said vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna are preferred for seniors ‘due to suggested superior efficacy’

A public health order has extended the types of health care professionals who can give the COVID-19 vaccine. (Photo courtesy of CHI Franciscan)
‘It’s great that midwives are included’ in rollout of B.C.’s COVID vaccine plan, says college

The order will help the province staff the mass vaccination clinics planned for April

Shipping containers are seen at the Fairview Cove Container Terminal in Halifax on Friday, Aug. 25, 2017. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
Canadian economy contracted 5.4 per cent in 2020, worst year on record

Drop was largely due to shutdowns in the spring as COVID began to spread

Most Read