In an earlier post, I took a look at the math in an ad that the BC Government placed on the the front page of 24 Hours Vancouver. In the ad the government suggested that teachers were asking for an 8% increase in salary and a 6.5% increase in benefits for a total 14.5% increase. As I pointed out, you cannot add percentages and benefits that are typically closely related to salary.
What the government was not saying is that the 6.5% was not actually benefits. Rather, it was their assessment of what the costs would be to implement the BCTF proposal. The BC Public School Employers’ Association has publicly released their costing 0f the BCTF proposal. In addition, the BC government advertisement has revised their advertisement to eliminate the breakdown of the 14.5% into 8% salary and 6.5% benefits.
Initial Advertisement New Advertisement
Let’s take a close look at the government position. First, please let me reiterate. I am dismayed at the approach that seems to be occurring with respect to negotiation via press release and media statement. That is certainly not how I would expect respectful negotiations to proceed.
The BCPSEA costed summary table is reproduced below. In it, BCPSEA present their offer to the teachers and the BCTF demands of government. Most reasonable people would read this and wonder why the government’s position is an offer and the teachers’ position is a demand. It strikes me as an unfortunate choice of words that certainly does not aid in bringing parties together.
So what’s actually in the teachers’ so-called compensation demands? Further inspection of the BCPSEA costing reveals the following:
Teachers’ Proposed Wage Increase
If a teacher’s current salary is T, then on July 1, 2017 it would be (assuming no change in seniority):
T × 1.035 × 1.015 × 1.015 × 1.015 = T × 1.082
That is, the teacher’s salary would increase by 8.2% (not 8%). Someone forgot to compound the increase in the original ad above while taking great care to use two significant figures to represent benefit increases.
And when you take closer look at the BCPSEA release they state this: Total Compensation is defined as all wages, wage-impacted benefits, and non- wage impacted benefits
It turns out that more than half of the “6.5% benefit improvements”, reported in the initial advertisement shown above, is to provide elementary school teachers with enhanced preparation time. This strikes me as a “working condition” not a “benefit” . Obviously I recognize that there are costs associated with improving working conditions, but to call this a”benefit” is a bit of a stretch.
Finally, I think it’s time for the government to pull back from attaching value added rhetoric and spin in its communication with the public about the ongoing negotiations with the BC teachers. Teaching is perhaps the most important profession in our society. After all, each and every one of us has attended school and that experience has shaped who we are, what we do and how we contribute to society. And let’s not hide behind the “it’s not affordable” mantra. Government is tasked with making choices. As I mentioned in another earlier post, education funding as a percentage of the provincial GDP has declined from a high of about 6.4% in 2001-2002 to an estimated low of about 5.0% in 2014-2015 (a decline of about 22%). If British Columbians deem education to be as important as I do, surely this drop needs to be rectified.
So are the BCTF and government really that far apart in terms of their positions? I think not. I am hopeful that with the timely appointment of a mediator, a negotiated settlement could be reached fairly quickly. But it’s important to put politics and historical differences aside. After all, our children are the next generation and it behoves us as a society to treat their education seriously.
Interview with Gregor Craigie – On The Island, CBC Radio, Victoria – June 24th, 2014