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					                                                                                                                      www.mbteach.org
                       191 Harcourt Street • Winnipeg, MB R3J 3H2 • Phone: 888-7961 or 1-800-262-8803 • Fax: 831-0877 or 1-800-665-0584




Solidarity
Labour Costs Going Through The Roof? The Annual School Budget Rites
April 24, 2004

Annually, from the time school divisions publicly reveal their draft budgets to the time at which those budgets are
finalized, the media provide their readers with heaps of invective, aimed directly at teachers. The bottom line of these
rants—”teachers are paid too much.”
Take, for example, the March 2, 2004 Winnipeg Sun column “Want Property Taxes Capped?”
The biggest reason your school property taxes are going up every year is not because the province is starving school divi-
sions of cash. The Doer government has been generous to school divisions over the past four years. The reason is largely
because the teachers’ union has been winning lucrative salary and benefit packages in arbitration over the years.
Lucrative benefit packages? What could the Winnipeg Sun be thinking? Most unionized workplaces typically have an
employer-paid benefits package (including pension) in the order of about 5% of annual compensation. Other than
teachers’ pensions, to which school boards make no contribution, the vast majority of teachers in Manitoba have few
employer-paid benefits in the way of health, dental and vision care. In fact teachers provide their own employee assis-
tance and disability programs and school boards do not have to make premium contributions on behalf of teachers to the
Workers’ Compensation Board. In other words, Manitoba taxpayers have been subsidized by teachers because they do
not contribute to a full compensation package similar to what other civil servants in Manitoba or other teachers across
Canada are provided.
Lucrative salary increases in arbitration? Over the last several years teacher contracts have generally been concluded at
the table, not by arbitration. Lucrative means profitable or yielding financial gain. Workers, much like business owners,
try to maximize their incomes. It’s how they support their families, pay the rent, put food on the table and can afford to
raise their children in the manner in which they deserve to be raised. The February 6, 2004 issue of Solidarity demon-
strated, by way of evidence from Statistics Canada, that GDP growth was not being shared with other Canadian workers.
Teachers are no different in this matter. In fact, the real incomes of Canadian workers and Manitoba teachers had not
even kept pace with inflation, never mind the growth in real income in the economy. On the other hand, total business
incomes grew by 46% and corporate profits increased by 223% during the ten year period from 993 to 2002. Perhaps
the Winnipeg Sun would consider an article on corporate executive pay. Now that’s lucrative!
But how do Manitoba’s public schools teachers’ salary increases compare to their fellow unionized workers in the public
and private sectors? Are teachers’ annual salary increases far and above that of other comparables? Of course such a com-
parison is narrow, as collective bargaining entails not just bargaining for salary but also for better working conditions and
benefits. In truth, the benefits received by Manitoba teachers trail behind other unionized workforces and other teachers
across Canada.
A review of the data of actual settlement rates reveals that teacher settlements are very much within the range of what
other comparable (unionized) workers are receiving either through the conclusion of collective bargaining sessions or
through dispute mechanisms such as conciliation or arbitration. In no way are teacher settlements excessive. In fact, it
is only in the very recent past that teachers have been able to successfully recoup some of the purchasing power lost over
the last 20 years. And although teacher increases have been above inflation since 999, teachers’ real incomes are still
below what they were 20 years ago. Were teachers’ salaries outrageously high 20 years ago? Comparative occupational
information from Statistics Canada does not indicate this. And if teachers’ salaries were incredibly high, wouldn’t people
from other occupations be flocking to be teachers? Articles in the media (Winnipeg Free Press, March 8, 2004 and Globe
& Mail, January 6, 2004) have profiled teaching and found that one of the main reasons why the proportion of male
teachers is decreasing is because of the lack of pay relative to other occupations (… and poor working conditions). In
other words, teaching isn’t as lucrative as other professions.



                                                                                                                                     
                                                                                                                      www.mbteach.org
                       191 Harcourt Street • Winnipeg, MB R3J 3H2 • Phone: 888-7961 or 1-800-262-8803 • Fax: 831-0877 or 1-800-665-0584




Throughout the 990’s public sector workers and teachers were subjected to legislated wage restraint which had the effect
of suspending free collective bargaining. This wage restraint was done in the name of attacking the deficit and debt. Since
the 90’s, deficits have been turned into surpluses and over the last several years, governments have, in turn, provided mas-
sive tax cuts to the business community. These tax cuts have depleted the growth of provincial revenues, even when the
growth of the provincial economy has been healthy. The result is a squeeze on core programs, funding…and additional
pressures on local property owners—which makes them cranky.
During the period 990 to 999, private sector unionized employees in Manitoba received higher increases than Mani-
toba teachers in 6 of 0 years. In fact, HRDC data shows that this was the case across Canada—private sector wage
settlements almost universally exceeded public sector wage settlements. It has only been since 999 that public sector
workers have been successful at gaining back what they lost during this period of time. Hence public sector and teacher
settlements in Manitoba have exceeded average private sector settlements. In other words, “catch-up” (i.e., the recouping
of previously lost real wages) has been the goal of public sector unions.
During the period 990 to 999, private sector unionized employees in Manitoba received higher increases than Mani-
toba teachers in 6 of 0 years. In fact, HRDC data shows that this was the case across Canada—private sector wage
settlements almost universally exceeded public sector wage settlements. It has only been since 999 that public sector
workers have been successful at gaining back what they lost during this period of time. Hence public sector and teacher
settlements in Manitoba have exceeded average private sector settlements. In other words, “catch-up” (i.e., the recouping
of previously lost real wages) has been the goal of public sector unions.
The gains made by teachers at the present time cannot and should not be compared to wage settlements of private sec-
tor workers. Unions based in the private sector have been facing an extraordinarily challenging environment over many
years. The private sector’s inherent anti-union bias codified through actions to decertify, move capital to right-to-work
(non-union) states, outsource and maximize profits by reducing workforce all serve to squeeze private sector-based
unions. This has occurred despite the fact that the U.S. experienced its longest economic expansion over the last 20 years.
Canadian private sector workers’ wage settlement rates have been falling since 200 (despite the fact that corporate prof-
its are at record high levels). Falling private sector union settlement rates have been occurring across North America since
the time of the U.S. recession. Now a soft U.S. recovery plus rising deficits have caused the Canadian dollar to rise which
has hurt our manufacturing and export sectors. Consequently, many private sector-based unions across Canada are in a
difficult situation (fight-back mode) trying to protect prior gains made over many years in their collective agreements.
It has long been convention that the best comparator for Manitoba teachers, outside of their own craft, is other Manito-
ba-based public sector workers. The data shows that Manitoba’s teacher force has been achieving what other public sector
workers have achieved. From 995 to 2003, teachers achieved similar salary increases as the average for all public sector
workers in Manitoba. Settlement rates for nurses, doctors (fee-for-service) and the police have exceeded teacher collective
agreements in recent years. Yet there is no public outcry against these groups of workers. The Globe & Mail (September
2, 2003) stated that for 2004 the average pay hike would be between 3 and 3.5 per cent. Recently, MGEU employees
working for the provincial government negotiated multiple year increases of 3%. Given this, is 3% for Manitoba teachers
too high? Hardly.
Clearly the sport of teacher bashing is linked to the unique way in which public education is financed. Schools are
financed by a combination of provincial general revenues and provincial and local taxation on property. As the province
has reduced its property taxation share, local education boards have had to increase their revenues to compensate. This
leads to the annual rant against teachers and “irresponsible school boards”. Government and school boards seem content
to let teachers take the blame. But all of the evidence indicates that teachers deserve none of it. They deserve dignity,
respect, and their hard-earned compensation.




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