Back in April, Minister of Education George Abbott all but eliminated the possibility of wage increases for teachers because of the dreaded "me too" clause. Vaughan Palmer reported:
If the B.C. Liberals were to grant a pay raise to school teachers in the current contract negotiations, it would be contractually obliged to grant retroactive increases to other public sector workers as well.
So says Education Minister George Abbott, referencing "me-too" clauses in a number of public sector union contracts, signed over the past two years.
And yet there is a very good case for wage increases for teachers. BC teachers have fallen to the bottom of the pack in cross Canada comparisons. By September 6, the start of the new school year, a teacher in Vancouver at the top of the pay scale will be earning over $21, 000 less than a teacher in Edmonton. On average, BC teachers will rank 9th in the provinces/territories, with only Quebec, PEI and Newfoundland behind us.
In Saskatchewan, where teachers salaries are currently just slightly ahead of BC, teachers are asking for significant increases in order to catch up with western Canadian averages.
This fall, Alberta teachers will receive a 4.4% increase, and Ontario teachers will receive a 3% increase.
And we are behind not just in salary. On class size, preparation time and benefits, BC teachers are near the bottom.
But will it cost the province to give teachers a raise? I have yet to see an actual "me too" clause signed by a public sector union. What there are is "renegotiate" clauses. That is, if the government breaks the so-called wage mandate, other unions will have the right to try and renegotiate. And so they should.
With inflation running above 3%, all public sector workers should be able to maintain their purchasing power and salary levels.
But how many clauses are actually out there? I'd like Mr. Abbott to show me, because the same government "mandate" that force the "net zero", also forced the exclusion of "me too" clauses.
We bargain with BCPSEA. Here is what they have to say about the wage mandate and me too clauses:
Me Too Clause
The inclusion of a “Me Too Clause” (i.e., a clause which would grant an increase in compensation to union A if Union B were to receive a compensation increase greater
than that received by Union A) is to be avoided. Those collective agreements that contain such a clause will not be ratified by the BCPSEA Board of Directors if there is any chance that the “Me Too Clause” will result in a settlement greater than that permitted under the monetary limits. Any “Me Too Clause” must be subject to the PSEC Compensation Mandate in effect at the same time as the clause would take effect.
So if any union has actually negotiated a REAL "me too" clause, then they have broken the mandate. Which one is it Mr. Abbott?