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Association rebuffs rollback talk

March 8, 2016 Cory Hare, ATA News Managing Editor

The Alberta Teachers’ Association is reminding Albertans what teachers are worth following a public call for a 10 per cent salary rollback by the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.

The federation issued a news release March 3 calling for the rollback, stating that Alberta teachers are the highest paid in the country.

“The province is staring down a ­potential $10.4 billion deficit. Teachers should not be exempt from necessary spending reductions,”" said the foundation’s Alberta director Paige MacPherson.

Association president Mark Ramsankar, in Germany to represent Canada at the International Summit on the Teaching Profession, responded to the news by saying it was no surprise coming from the taxpayers’ federation.

“At no time in their history have they advocated for reasonable pay increases or even for responsible investments in public services,” he said. “Their only solution to anything is to cut: cut taxes, cut public services, cut jobs, cut workers. Their mandate is to reduce government services and so their attacks on civil servants are boring and predictable.”

To support its call for a rollback, the taxpayers’ federation cited data from the B.C. Teachers’ Federation, stating that Alberta teachers at the maximum level are the highest paid of any province, bringing in $99,004 on average. The federation also argued that Canadian teachers are the third-best paid in the world, according to the World Economic Forum.

MacPherson said that a 10 per cent wage rollback would mean an average salary of $89,104, for Alberta teachers at the top level — nearly $4,000 higher than the national average.

“By every reasonable measure, teachers’ salaries are out of touch with the economic realities faced by the province,” MacPherson said. “Rolling back salaries is a way to save money on education without hurting students.”

Ramsankar countered that, based on Statistics Canada data, Albertans across all sectors earn more than their counterparts across the country. He added that teachers are working in increasingly crowded and complex classrooms, due to students’ wide range of learning abilities and backgrounds, without ­access to the supports and assistance they and their students need.

“There are more students needing to learn the English language, more students with severe special needs and more students overall who need teachers to provide them with an education,” Ramsankar said. “Definitely there are people in other professions who do demanding work in the face of difficult challenges. Just like them, Alberta teachers are worth every cent they make.”

Ramsankar added that more detailed discussions about compensation will be conducted in a suitable setting.

“We need to have a full and honest discussion with government about many issues — including teachers’ conditions of practice and compensation — but that conversation needs to occur at the negotiation table,” he said. “I don’t want to preclude those discussions and I don’t want to presuppose what the outcomes might be.” ❚

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