Editor’s note: This is an open letter to Black Press columnist Tom Fletcher in response to Mr. Fletcher’s column titled “A brief history of teachers’ demands” in last week’s June 25th issue of the Invermere Valley Echo.
I have just finished reading your June 25/14 column in our local paper in which you characterize teachers as being greedy, inconsiderate and selfish in their contract demands. Unfortunately, your figures do not include two key points, which I will now explain to all readers, not just “those who passed math.”
Point #1 is the fact that my gross pay has not risen at all during the three years since the 2006 contract expired in 2011, and my net pay has actually gone down by 1 per cent over the past two years due to increased premiums for our benefit package. This is how we “sailed” through the recession. You stated a 16 per cent raise over five years should actually be 14 per cent calculated over eight years, working out to 1.75 per cent per year. In your next column, please compare this 1.75 per cent increase to, for example, the increases in fuel and hydro prices that have beset us since 2006 and are indeed something worth “howling about.”
Point #2 goes back to the latter part of 1900s, when teachers chose to forego the much higher increases being negotiated in other sectors to take a 0-0-2 per cent increases over three years — a whopping 2/3 of a percentage point per year. What was the trade-off? Stipulations in contract for smaller class sizes and better support for those students needing it. Although these stipulations were “for the kids” and did not put more money in my own pocket, from an economical perspective they did create new consumers to support local businesses, since more teachers were now required to fill more positions with smaller classes.
This contract was illegally ripped up (twice, so deemed by the Supreme Court) in 2002 by then-Minister of Education Christy Clarke. This created an increased workload for those teachers who remained, as class sizes soared and composition became a larger issue. Twelve years later, our students are still getting cheated out of their support and the increased teacher attention that comes with small class sizes. As a salaried employee, you must agree that if the “here’s the work” part of the equation goes up so the does the “here’s the salary” portion. I have yet to receive remuneration for that illegal contract stripping — talk about a “thinly disguised” pay cut!
If, in the late 1990s, you wrote a column praising the teachers for taking this minuscule increase in exchange for stipulations that were “for the kids”, please cite both the date and the media in which it was published. Then I can read it and it may change my opinion of your perspective of B.C. teachers.
Proud to be a teacher,