New Brunswick’s education minister Bill Hogan is firing back at the New Brunswick Teacher’s Federation over claims that they are being “squeezed” by the government.
Hogan used part of his opening speech at the legislature’s estimates committee to address teacher wages, saying the salaries for the province’s teachers measure up favorably against their Atlantic counterparts.
“Our teachers are currently compensated better than their counterparts in Nova Scotia and Newfoundland,” he said.
Hogan said that the $82,296 salary in New Brunswick is above the $81,514 paid to similarly experienced teachers in Nova Scotia and the $73,242 in Newfoundland and Labrador. Teachers in Prince Edward Island do more, but Hogan said that was due to a recent binding arbitration award.
Hogan added that the government’s current offer would mean the same teacher would be making over $93,000 in 2025.
But as Green education critic Megan Mitton points out, those numbers don’t tell the full story.
“What he presented was a bit misleading because he was talking about the salaries after a teacher has worked for 11 years, not the starting salaries which are in fact lower than the other Atlantic provinces,” she said.
Looking at starting salaries across Atlantic Canada, New Brunswick teachers actually made the least at $53,372. That’s compared to $57,112 in Nova Scotia and $55,932 in Newfoundland and Labrador for comparably trained first-year teachers.
NB Teacher’s Association says teachers are being ‘squeezed,’ applies for mediation in contract talks
The NBTF has said that the two-per-cent-per-year increase being offered isn’t enough, with president Connie Keating saying the offer is below the national average and that of New Brunswick’s Maritime counterparts.
Liberal education critic Francine Landry says the province’s offer should take into account the pace of inflation over the last few years. The Consumer Price Index (CPI) in the province rose by 3.8 per cent in 2021 and by 7.3 per cent in 2020.
“It should also take into account the inflation, I think that’s mainly what he needs to look at with the teachers,” she said.
But Hogan, who spent 35 years as a teacher and administrator, says that teachers can’t expect to be paid at the rate of inflation. He said that he worked under wage freezes during the McKenna years and said he was thrilled with contracts that came with a 10-per cent raise over the lifespan of the deal, which is in line with what the province is offering.
“We never kept up with CPI, so to look at that and think that’s going to be your salary increase, I think you’re looking at more the federal government unions than the provincial ones,” he said.
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The NBTF has applied for conciliation as talks have stalled. Teachers have been without a contract since 2021.
Another key piece on the issue is the safety of students traveling to school on snow days, the number of which the province is hoping to cut, as well as a recruitment and retention plan to increase the number of teachers.
Hogan said the province is working with school districts to improve the working environment in schools and noted the province’s struck newly executive committee which will look to improve issued in the anglophone school system, including classroom composition.
But Mitton says that teachers are desperate to hear a real plan detailing how the province intends to deal with staff shortages.
“Schools are in crisis mode a lot of the time where students don’t’ necessarily have a teacher every day and teachers are being expected to in some cases feed and clothe and respond to needs that students have that they aren’t trained to respond to,” she said.
The New Brunswick Teachers’ Association applies for mediation as part of ongoing negotiations
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