Nunavut teachers reach tentative wage deal

A tentative wage agreement between Nunavut teachers and the Nunavut government does not restore vacation travel assistance.



IQALUIT — The Federation of Nunavut Teachers has reached a tentative three-year wage deal with the Nunavut government.

The federation’s executive is recommending that Nunavut’s 600 teachers, principles and other education workers accept the agreement, which includes an 8.5 per cent increase spread out over three years.

The tentative agreement didn’t meet all of the federation’s objectives, said president Donna Stephania but “at the present time this is the best deal we can get for the members,” she said.

Notably missing is the restoration of vacation travel assistance payments that the GNWT cut from their last collective agreement.

But Stephania said at this time it was the best deal they could get.

“In the end, it’s the membership that decides,” she said.

If the deal is ratified, federation members will receive:

a 3.5 per cent salary increase, effective Sept. 1, 1999;
a 2.5 per cent salary increase, effective Sept. 1, 2000 and
a 2.5 per cent increase, effective Sept. 1, 2001.
In 1996, the former GNWT cut teachers pay scales by 6.25 per cent.

The negotiated increase will restore those losses and make some increases, Stephania said.

The tentative agreement also includes “enhancements” to the northern allowance, but Stephania would not say how the allowance had been improved. The deal also includes increases to the compensation given to principals for administrative work.

Stephania also said the union and the Nunavut government will meet later to discuss other benefits outside of the collective agreement.

For example, she said an employee assistance program is needed for teachers who are experiencing family or financial problems. Such a program would give teachers access to counselling free of charge.

And she said staff housing will remain a hot issue — even though it’s not officially on the bargaining table.

“Housing, by legislation, cannot be negotiated in a collective agreement. But it doesn’t stop us from talking,” Stephania said.

She said the territorial government will have to deal with the housing issue if it wants to maintain its staffing levels.

Access to government housing and the amount of rent paid are issues for teachers across Nunavut, she said.

Student-teacher ratios will also be discussed.

Teachers’ contracts expired Aug. 31, 1999. Four rounds of negotiations began on Sept. 15.

Stephania said teachers will be mailed information packages on the proposed agreement and mail-in ballots are being mailed. Union members can phone the union for further information.

Ballots must be returned by Jan. 21. Ratification requires a vote of 50 per cent plus one in favour of the deal.

In the NWT, members of the Northwest Territories Teacher Federation have rejected a tentative agreement reached Nov. 5 through a mediator.

Their president, Pat Thomas, says the NWT teachers’ union may use “job action” if the deal isn’t improved.

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