B.C. teach­ers’ union to ask for higher salaries in ne­go­ti­a­tions

Vancouver Sun - - CITY -

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.

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