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B.C. teachers union says new contract puts teachers in ‘top tier’ in Canada

Annual salaries set to increase by $6,000 to $8,500 by 3rd year
British Columbia’s provincial flag flies on a flag pole in Ottawa, Friday July 3, 2020. The organization that represents the British Columbia government in negotiations with the province’s teachers says it has reached a tentative contract with educators. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

A tentative contract has been reached for British Columbia’s 49,000 public school teachers in a deal the union says would take them from near the bottom to the “top tier” of pay in Canada.

In a statement sent to members, BC Teachers’ Federation president Clint Johnston said the agreement was reached after more than 50 days of bargaining and the union executive is recommending that its members ratify the contract.

Johnston said he’s proud that the team was able to secure a tentative agreement that has significant salary and other gains for teachers.

“If ratified, this agreement will take us from near the lowest-paid teachers in Canada into the top tier. I am deeply grateful to the members of the team who worked so hard to get us to this point,” Johnston said.

The statement sent Sunday said the annual pay for teachers at the top of the salary grid will be $10,000 to $13,500 more per year than it is now by the third year.

“For the first time ever, experienced B.C. teachers will cross the $100,000-per-year threshold putting you much closer to, or even above, teachers in places like Calgary and Toronto,” he said.

By the end of the three-year term, Johnston said, new members’ annual salary will be approximately $6,000 to $8,500 per year higher than it is now, depending on their grid placement and category.

Other improvements in the deal include 10 additional minutes of preparation time for elementary teachers, improvements to heath and maternity benefits and a provincial minimum standard for professional development funding, the statement said.

Catching up to Canada’s best-paid teachers has been a priority for the federation for years, and the gains, if ratified, will help address recruitment and retention challenges, the statement said.

The BC Public School Employers Association, which negotiates on behalf of the provincial government, said the agreement was reached on Friday.

The association said the agreement follows the provincial shared recovery mandate, which sets out specific wage increases, including inflation protection, while ensuring the government has the resources to protect services and support economic recovery.

The mandate promises a flat salary increase of 25 cents per hour plus 3.24 per cent in the first year, a 5.5 per cent salary bump in year two and a two per cent increase in year three. The final two years also include potential cost-of-living adjustments.

The union said there were challenges and frustrations of negotiating teacher workloads, but the bargaining team feels the agreement is the best it could get.

“Personally, I do not believe that any form of job action would result in any significant changes to workload at this time,” Johnston said in the statement.

A ratification vote will be held by each union local between Nov. 16 and 18.

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