Sunday, May 20, 2012

Dance with the one that funds you

As of this week, by my count, only one (two?) teachers' federation remains at the provincial discussion table with the Ontario Ministry of Education. Only the Ontario English Catholic Teaches' Association (OECTA) and maybe one of the French-language teachers' unions remain at the table.
For those catching up, the PDTs are the vehicle by which the bulk of collective agreements in the K-12 education sector in Ontario have been settled since the Liberals took office in 2003. It's one way of settling the big questions revolving around money and provincewide working conditions at a single table, producing a template shell of an agreement that can be taken back to the 72 publicly funded school boards to finalize local issues and ratify.
Though the Liberals have approached the PDTs in a different way for each round of contracts, they have until now produced good contracts for teachers and other people working in the education sector as per-pupil spending has surpassed $10,000 per student.
It's the PDTs that have given teachers good contracts. So good, as I've written before, that those at the top of their grids will be on the so-called Sunshine List in either 2013 of 2014 by way of simple compound mathematics.
As written in May 2009;
Anyone making $88K in those employee groups on Aug. 31, 2008, just signed a deal in the last nine months that will see them reach $100K by 2012. Meaning in either 2013 or 2014, they'll be on the Sunshine List too.
I make no apologies-- but for a classroom teacher that's a very good compensation package. In Ontario, teachers and other workers in the education sector are fairly compensated for their educational and work-experience backgrounds.
PDTs also make sense because since 1998, the province funds almost all of the revenues received by a school board. While the step of full-on provincial bargaining has never actually happened, you're living in a fantasy world if you don't think the federations haven't been bargaining provincially for years. The routine appointment of a provincial table officer at all local negotiations is only the first proof of this.
At the PDT, the federations, school boards and government would come to an agreement on what would be funded and what the money would be used to accomplish. It's been successful and has drawn attention around the world for how to set goals and then orient an entire sector to reach for them.
This year, the province publicly launched negotiations by stating all the things it wouldn't do-- give raises in the first two years, allow for anyone to climb the grid, etc. Here's the thing though-- even with those take-it-or-leave-it public statements, the money available (though continually directed at provincial priorities) isn't dropping. Job losses in the sector are due almost entirely to declining enrolment, not cuts to specific programs-- though specific programs are under the gun where there are not enough students to support them.
This government has a knack for making bold statements in public, but then sitting down and working out a deal. The federations have run away from that table -- perhaps hoping a "me too" clause can save whatever deal is worked out with those who remain behind.
This whole thing is a long dance-- negotiations always are -- and it's far from over as I don't expect any labour issues until at least September, but 2013 would be a safer bet.
The federations that have walked away may be counting on public sympathy, but after eight generous years, it's doubtful they'll find in in the same way they did during previous government tenures.
Further, while the employer of record is still the local school board, my faith that local boards will negotiate to pay for things with money they haven't been given is non-existent.
The smart thing here is to come back to the table and keep talking. You gotta keep the dance going or risk being left outside the dance hall when the band and rental contract are signed for another four years-- just ask the Elementary Teachers' Federation of Ontario, who managed to lose parity for walking away in 2008-09.


elementaryteacher said...

You can't have all your figures correct. I'm at the top of the grid, and my salary is 92K. Certainly a good one, but it will not put me on the sunshine list.

Secondary teachers may be getting 100K (and so can elementary teachers who take summer school principal jobs or similar add-ons) but I am not aware of any elementary teachers in southern Ontario whose base salary is close to 100K yet, and I'd be very surprised to see a hefty raise in the next few years!

Education Reporter said...

elementary teacher:

If you're a member of ETFO, you won't reach the 100K on this contract because of how your union lost you wage parity in the 2008-12 contract.

Everyone else got 3% a year over the four years-- if memory serves, for ETFO's stubbornness over who would control additional prep time, the last two years of the ETFO deal were 2.5% and 2%.

But, going to the other teachers represented by other federations, adding 3% a year over four years puts the very top of the grid over $100K in the fourth year of the contract. Because the Sunshine list is compiled on calendar years, that group of people won't appear until the 2013 lists are released in early 2014.

The overall point stands. Teachers, god love 'em, are fairly compensated in Ontario. Starting wages for someone with a B.A. and what amounts to a post-grad one-year certificate (yes, I know, it's a B.Ed.) are in the mid-$30Ks provincewide, which is a damn good starting wage for that level of education. Those who move on to take additional qualification courses, masters degrees and so on see fair increases to their wages.

When it comes to benefits, teachers have among the best.

So as I said in the post, federations hoping for public sympathy on being asked (at this point) to swallow wage and grid freezes aren't going to find a lot of sympathy out there.


elementaryteacher said...

You're still off by about $5000, Hugo.

I agree that teachers are fairly paid. I also think that the facts should be accurately reported.