Thursday, May 26, 2011

Saskatchewan teachers continue strike over wages

Yesterday and today Saskatchewan teachers again withdrew services in an attempt to push the government to improve the wage offer during negotiations. See the news release here:

Saskatchewan teachers are seeking parity with Western Canadian averages. They are asking for 16% over three years. The last government offer is 6%.

Saskatchewan teachers are already slightly ahead of BC teachers in terms of salary. We would need even higher increases in order to be in line with Alberta and Ontario, or with the Western Canadian average. BC teachers used to be third in the country, but have now slipped to eighth, with respect to salaries.

Saskatchewan Teachers Federation's Gwen Dueck described the government's offer:

"Dueck added that the government’s words and actions are not matching up. “We hear that teachers are valued but there seems to be little willingness to demonstrate that in a collective agreement. Instead, teachers are being threatened with layoffs and being attacked for wanting to take part in Saskatchewan’s booming economy.”"

Dueck has also pointed out that in Alberta, teachers are receiving wage increases of 5.99% for 2009/10 and 2.95% for 2010/11 and 4.54% in 2011/12. In Manitoba, the increases are 3% in 2010 followed by 3% in 2011.

Across North America this double speak takes place. US Education Secretary's open letter to US teachers expressing how much they were "valued" also rang false when State governments are attacking wages, pensions, working conditions, and there are mass layoffs.

In BC, the government continues to stick to it's "net zero mandate", insisting that teachers here should receive 0% and 0% for the next two years. This is at the same time that Education Minister George Abbott tells teachers he is concerns about "job satisfaction". This would make BC teachers fall even further behind and expresses neither value, appreciation nor an interest in having the best teachers want to work in BC.

Are Saskatchewan and BC so different with respect to their economies? Bank of Montreal economists predict GDP growth for 2011 in Saskatchewan of 4% and in BC of 3.1%, both outperforming the national average. With inflation rates over 3%, increases of 3% only maintain the status quo with respect to salaries.

Kudos to the Saskatchewan teachers for standing up for fair and reasonable wage increases when the economy is doing well. And I hope the BC government is willing to reconsider their draconian wage offer in light of the improved BC economy and that it doesn't take strike action to make them be reasonable.

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