Education Minister George Abbott says the government will not back down from it’s zero, zero, zero mandate on teacher salary negotiations.
During annual back to school conference calls Tuesday, the minister said he feels the hardline his government has drawn on public sector raises is a functional reality of the global economic state and not a position taxpayers can afford for the government to back down on.
“We didn’t cause the subprime mortgage crisis,” said Abbott.
“(So) there is no question in my mind, and certainly in the government’s mind, that the net zero mandate…will also be extended to teachers.”
Abbott said he was surprised to find that 90 per cent of the Ministry of Education’s budget already goes to teacher and support staff wages when he took over as education minister.
He said the province is struggling with deficit challenges and does not have the money to budge in this regard.
He then noted that in 2006 the government was able to authorize a 12 per cent wage increase and significant signing bonus.
The comments were made in press conferences geared toward the back-to-school period, which will see teachers pulling basic administrative services in an attempt to force the contract negations along.
On Wednesday, the B.C. Teachers’ Federation reiterated it is still pursuing a wage increase, contending B.C. teachers’ salaries have fallen behind colleagues in other provinces and the profession has not seen an increase in benefits in 15 years.
The union has been clear they are looking for funding increases that will help teachers in the classroom as well, having won a Supreme Court ruling this spring that found the Liberal government did not have the right to remove bargaining on class size and composition from the teachers’ contract in 2002.
Barring a last minute deal, teachers will begin basic job action on the first week of school, pulling administrative services like writing report cards and attending meetings.
“Teachers’ attention will be totally focused on the students in their classrooms and not on the many bureaucratic and administrative tasks that take away from the joy of teaching and learning,” said Lambert.