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July 7, 2012 / Carol Gibson

Salary grids ensure pay increases for teachers despite net zero

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BCTF president Susan Lambert and fellow union members (photo: Black Press)

Jock Finlayson’s analysis published in the Vancouver Sun last month, Teachers Waging a Disingenuous War, was timely and helped taxpayers understand the real story behind the current labour conflict between the teachers union and the BC government. In his column Finlayson surmises:

…that teachers in this province are compensated at a level that aligns quite well with what employed British Columbians in general earn, when looked at in a Canadian context.

He goes on to conclude:

From the perspective of B.C. taxpayers, it makes no sense to increase compensation for all 41,000 teachers in the K-12 system because of supply-demand imbalances affecting a relatively small proportion of the entire occupation.

When it comes to trends in compensation, it’s hard to make a case that B.C. teachers have been shortchanged. For the period 2006-11, the minimum pay boost for BCTF members was 14 per cent, while the maximum percentage increase was about 21 per cent. These pay hikes either match or exceed those garnered by most private sector workers in the province.

Another aspect of this – as Finlayson describes the BCTF’s campaign – “disingenuous war” is that it ignores the complexities of the teacher salary grid as well as how the previously negotiated salary increases affect the grid. The union claims that teachers receive no salary increases, and parents – affected by no report cards and the upcoming strike action – of course don’t know otherwise.

So what do the BC teachers salary grids look like?

Teacher salary grids provide automatic salary increases for increased education and for each year of teaching experience to a maximum of 10 years. Recall, a teaching year is a 10 month year, not a 12 month year. Also, unlike many professions, teachers are not required by their professional regulatory board to maintain currency in knowledge and practice.

Here’s some understanding of how it works for BC’s teachers:

  • The amount of education a teacher brings to teaching is indicated by 4 education levels in the grid – Levels 4, 5, 5+ and 6.
  • In BC, Level 5 is the typical entry level for a majority of teachers with a baccalaureate degree (4 years) and 1 year of teacher education.
  • Level 5+ recognizes additional education which does not result in an advanced degree.
  • Level 6 recognizes completion of a graduate degree or degrees.

In 2011 in Vancouver the starting salary at level 5 was $48,083. The starting salary at Level 6 for a teacher with a graduate degree was $52,823 – about a 10% difference for a completed graduate degree.

The salary grid  also provides automatic salary increases year over year for accumulated teaching experience to a maximum of 10 years. These are referred to as “Steps” in the grid. Steps begin at 0 and end at 10 years. So a teacher starting last September would see the following increases to their pay over 10 years of teaching:

  • Based on the 2010-2011 salary grid in Vancouver a beginning teacher at Level 5 Step 0 would earn $48, 083.
  • By 2021 this same teacher would have received automatic salary increases that average about 4.5% per year.
  • In 10 years his or her salary would have increased by about 55% to $74,353.

In addition to increases for years of experience, negotiated salary increases also affect the salary grid.

In the last round of negotiations there was a negotiated increase that changed the grid each year from July 2006 to July 2010. For the beginning teacher at Level 5, step 0 of the 2010-11 grid the starting salary was $ 48,083, not $43,775 as it was in 2006. This means the beginning teacher starting a career in Vancouver in 2010 began with a salary 9.8% higher than a colleague who started in 2006.

What happens to the salary of the colleague who started in 2006 at $43,775?

  • In 2010-2011, his or her salary is at Level 5 but it is now at Step 4 of a grid that reflects the negotiated salary increases. He or she benefits from these negotiated increases to the grid.
  • In the 2010-11 grid, Level 5/Step 4 is $57,725 not $52,552 as projected in 2006 salary grid – a 9.8% increase.
  • Further, the projected maximum for this colleague at step 10 is now $74,353 not $65,719 or 13% more than was projected in the 2006 salary grid.

While the number of “Steps” and “Levels” can be a little confusing, the public should understand that our teachers are not only being compensated fairly, but that for the first 10 years of their careers they also will receive annual increases regardless of the government’s net zero mandate – just for showing up to teach.

Parents already struggling under the downloaded costs of additional daycare costs for expanded vacation breaks and professional development days should breathe easy. Teachers are being compensated fairly despite protests to the contrary by their union.

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In a further post we’ll discuss the teacher’s pension and other benefits. For a timeline of past BCTF teachers strikes see this link courtesy of GlobalTV BC.

– post by Carol Gibson, originally published by City Caucus on March 2, 2012.

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