A net-zero offer will always be a non-starter for teachers when it comes to their ongoing collective bargaining, says Delta Teachers' Association president Paul Steer.
"Teachers who are on strike look forward to a renewal of the terms of their employment and look forward to a negotiated end to the strike, but are unwilling to accept government's net-zero mandate, which would really deliver a reduction in salaries and benefits for teachers in real terms, once inflation is factored in," Steer told the Optimist Tuesday.
The B.C. Teachers' Federation this week tabled a new bargaining position, calling for a 15 per cent pay hike in a three-year deal. The union has also modified some of its proposals for improved benefits.
The total cost of the union's new proposals would be $300 million.
The union's contract expired June 30, but it's made little progress in contract talks with the B.C. Public School Employers' Association. The BCTF had demanded wages that are in line with those offered in Alberta and Ontario, a sharp contrast from the BCPSEA's position.
Education Minister George Abbott has insisted the teachers' contract abide by the government's netzero mandate for public servants.
BCTF president Susan Lambert said she hopes her union's new compromise position would encourage the government to also budge
"Net zero amounts to a pay cut, while a cost of living adjustment is essentially a wage freeze. It's perfectly reasonable that B.C. teachers want to keep up with inflation and move a little way towards catching up with teachers in other provinces," Lambert said.
"B.C.'s economy is stronger than most, yet other provincial governments have set their priorities to invest in classrooms, teachers and kids, not to cut education budgets," she said.
Steer agreed, saying, "Teachers are part of the community and want to see everyone doing well. Teachers' salaries make a positive contribution to local and small businesses. Any lessening of teachers' salaries will inevitably mean that teachers will have less to spend on goods and services in Delta. How is this a good thing?"
Teachers have been involved in limited job action since the start of the new school year, including refusing to write report cards. More recently, they refused to take part in the Foundation Skills Assessment exams administered annually to grades 4 and 7 students, forcing principals and vice-principals to take on that role.