I have just been watching "The Teachers' Agenda" episode of TVO's Agenda program. Looking at some of the comments posted as well as some of Steve Paikin's devil's advocate comments I wanted to raise a few issues.
1. The issue of the banked sick days. The provisions around those days were negotiated in previous contracts. That means that the school boards and province typically had to pay less money in wages and benefits because the teachers were willing to make concessions in return for keeping the sick day banking and gratuities. So taxpayers, school boards, and the province have already received value for those banked days and gratuity provisions. It is hardly fair for the government to take from teachers something that teachers have already paid for.
2. The issue that the private sector has had a tough time over the last few years but that the public sector has not and that is why the government has to apply Bill 115. True, the private sector has had a tough time recently. But previously the private sector was doing really well (late 90s, early 2000s) while the public sector was being hammered by Mike Harris and his "Common Sense Revolution". The private and public sectors tend to go in opposite cycles. This is the nature of the beast. The workers in the public sector do not expect 5% and 10% yearly wage increases when the economy is booming, even though that may be happening in the private sector. It is not reasonable to pull the public sector down when the private sector is doing badly if the reverse (pulling the public sector up when the private sector is doing well) is not on the table.
3. Extra-curricular activities. This seems to be the current lightning rod because Bill 115 has not allowed teachers any other method for expressing their displeasure. Extracurricular clubs, groups, and teams are run almost entirely on the goodwill and volunteer time of teachers. Teachers are not given any compensation of any kind for their efforts and, in my experience, are rarely even thanked by the students and/or the parents. Yet many parents and media commentators are currently talking regularly about how critical and important extracurricular activities are for students. I would be more sympathetic if the current pronunciations matched behaviours that occur when teachers are putting in all the voluntary time.
4. Teacher salaries + benefits + vacations versus the private sector. Back in 2000 I left a permanent teaching job and worked at Mitel Networks Corporation for about three years. When I started at Mitel I got a significant yearly pay raise (roughly from $46,000 to $60,000). Based on a ten month teaching year I was making about $4,600 a month teaching versus $5,000 a month at Mitel. At Mitel I had various medical and insurance benefits, including sick days and the option of long-term disability, that were very similar to what I got as a teacher. I also got vacation days that I could take at any time (unlike my time as a teacher). Mitel also offered a pension benefit of 5% per year. Finally, I was able to be promoted and earn raises based on my performance, which worked out to about a 10% raise after my first year, in comparison to the 2 - 3% raise (starting from the lower yearly salary) I would have earned as a teacher. So my experience in the private sector was that compared to teaching I was able to earn more money, get similar benefits, and get two weeks of vacation that I could take any time.
5. Hourly salaries. This issue came up in the comments. Every once in a while some commentator takes an experienced teacher's salary (about $90,000), divides by five hours of work a day (the absolute minimum that a full time teacher can work) and roughly 200 work days a year and gets a value of around $90 an hour. I don't have statistics for all teachers but I know that my wife, who does not yet make $90,000 a year typically works 50 hours a week, not including any volunteer activities, when she is teaching full time. Based on working about 40 weeks a year, that means that she works right around 2000 hours a year, the same as anyone working forty hours a week for fifty weeks. So my wife is making less than $45 an hour, unlike the $90/hr that biased commentators like to invoke.
My point with this post is to try and provide some information about teachers and their working conditions that are based in reality in contrast to the ideas and numbers being thrown around by teacher-hating commentators. I hope it helped.