Local teachers are disheartened that they will get no pay increase this year — the seventh wage freeze in eight years.
“Initial reactions from anybody I’ve talked to is disappointment, for sure,” said Kelly Aleman, a Hunting Hills guidance counsellor and president of the Alberta Teachers’ Association (ATA) Local 60.
“(There’s) frustration, the feeling that teachers have done their part to absorb some of these things,” said Aleman.
In a decision released last Friday, an arbitration panel ruled that teachers’ salaries would remain frozen for the 2018-19 and 2019-20 school years. The ATA, which represents 46,000 educators, was seeking two per cent.
Aleman said even when the province’s fiscal picture was brighter in years past, teachers’s wages were frozen. The last time they got a raise — two per cent — was five years ago.
“Teachers just want to keep up with inflation. That would be fair. But that really hasn’t been happening over the last eight years.”
Aleman said teachers respect that times are tough. Many have friends and relatives who make their living in the oil and gas industry.
“It’s not like teachers don’t support that. But they just think education needs to be supported as well.
“Teachers, in general, are pretty understanding people and want to do what’s right. But I think it gets to a certain point where people go, well, (wage increases are) never going to happen.
“I think there are people who are disheartened that this continues to happen.”
Teacher wages are not the only part of the education system that is feeling the pinch, he said.
“I think there is a lot of pressure on the educational system in general. It’s just been chronically under-funded — not just this government, even our previous government.
“There is just not enough funding in general, and that’s not even including wages.”
The result has been larger class sizes and fewer supports for students in need, he said.
ATA president Jason Schilling also expressed his disappointment with the arbitrators’ decision.
“This decision just kicks the can down the road,” said Schilling. “Teachers will seek to correct this situation in the next round of collective bargaining.”
The current contract expires at the end of August and ATA expects to be back at the bargaining table in March.
“The stakes are going to be higher than ever. Frankly, Alberta teachers are tired of having to pay for the continuing failure of successive governments to adequately fund public education.”