B.C. teachers’ union to ask for higher salaries in negotiations
The union representing B.C. teachers will look to boost salaries when contract negotiations open this year.
B.C. Teachers Federation president Glen Hansman told a crowd at the union’s annual general meeting in Vancouver Saturday that the province’s low starting salaries mean B.C. still isn’t attracting enough qualified teachers to fill a shortage that continues to reverberate across the province.
B.C. starting salaries are $10,000 to $15,000 lower than Ontario or Alberta, he said in an interview before his speech. That makes B.C. and Quebec the lowest in Canada, he said.
“We don’t set our (bargaining) objectives until the fall, but it could be fair to assume that given affordability issues in British Columbia, salary is going to be very important to look at, as well as unaddressed issues around class size and composition,” Hansman said.
Public sector bargaining begins in less than 10 months for the BCTF, he said. It is one of several unions that will renegotiate their contracts, which expire in June 2019, with the province.
B.C. school districts have been hiring since the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in favour of restoring language around class size and composition. About 3,500 positions have been filled and 300 remain open.
Hansman said that doesn’t tell the whole story. The shortage of substitute teachers remains a problem, especially in Metro Vancouver. It means when a teacher is absent, there is a domino effect in classrooms, with special education and English language teachers pulled from their assignments to fill in.
“It’s disruptive for the students who are supposed to be getting their support; it’s disruptive for the other teachers at the school, who depend on kids coming and going throughout the day,” Hansman said.
He also said class size and composition standards may not be up to standard.
“We won in the Supreme Court of Canada in November of 2016, but what has been restored is language that hasn’t changed, more or less, for a quarter century,” Hansman said. “So had that language around class size and composition never been unconstitutionally legislated away in the first place, presumably it would have continued to have evolved over subsequent rounds of bargaining.”
Early this month, Education Minister Rob Fleming announced an additional $571,000 to train more than 100 teachers in the highest-demand fields such as special education, French, math and physics.
Fleming said last year’s hiring spree was the largest in a generation and the province is continuing to make improvements to recruit and retain more teachers.
The BCTF annual general meeting continues through Tuesday and includes an address by Premier John Horgan that day.