What is a fair, reasonable and competitive salary increase?

The Government-Trustee Bargaining Committee claims their offer of 5.5 per cent over three years is fair, reasonable and competitive. Teachers are asking for 16.3 per cent in total over three years.

The Teachers’ Bargaining Committee is prepared to present their comprehensive data to a third party to then determine what fair, reasonable and competitive salaries might actually be for Saskatchewan teachers. The Government-Trustee Bargaining Committee has said “No” to that proposal.

This raises the question: What is a fair, reasonable and competitive salary increase?

Chart 1

 

Fair

In 2010, a beginning teacher with a four-year education degree made $46,419 in Saskatchewan, $48,457 in Manitoba and $55,975 in Alberta. Saskatchewan teacher salaries were $2,038 to $9,556 less than their counterparts in the neighbouring provinces. Is this fair or appropriate?

When comparing salaries for any occupation, it is also important to consider the cost of living in each province. For example, although the cost of living remained relatively the same in the three prairie provinces from 1995 to 2002, the cost of living in Saskatchewan since then has continued to exceed that of Manitoba. This cost of living difference further widens the gap between Manitoba and Saskatchewan teacher salaries.

An increase of 10.8 per cent is needed for the salaries of Saskatchewan teachers to be repositioned midway between the salaries of their counterparts in Manitoba and Alberta.

Graph 1

 

Reasonable

The Government-Trustee Bargaining Committee has stated repeatedly in its newspaper advertisements that the cost of living measured by Consumer Price Index increased 33.1 per cent since 1997 and teachers’ wages increased by 53.2 per cent. This statement conveniently tells only half of the story. Consider a longer-term perspective.

In 1983, teachers’ actual spending power was at its highest but as inflation continued to increase, purchasing power diminished and reached its lowest level in 1996. Since then, teachers have slowly gained back their purchasing power. However, teachers’ salaries still remain between 3.1 per cent and 5.3 per cent lower than they were in 1983. This is not a reasonable situation.

As a result, a cost of living increase of 5.5 per cent would start to re-establish the purchasing power Saskatchewan teachers had in the mid-1980s.

Graph 2

 

Competitive

The Government-Trustee Bargaining Committee claims that if their offer of 5.5 per cent over three years is accepted it would make Saskatchewan teachers among the highest paid in Canada.

This is not the case. Saskatchewan teachers’ salaries would not even surpass those of their counterparts in neighbouring provinces. Teachers in Manitoba will experience an increase of 3 per cent in 2010-11 and 2 per cent in 2011-12 while teachers in Alberta will experience an increase of 2.92 per cent in 2010-11 and 4.54 per cent in 2011-12. As a result, the government-trustee proposal of 1.5 per cent in 2010-11 and 2 per cent in 2011-12 and then 2 per cent in 2012-13 would still leave Saskatchewan teachers’ salaries well behind those in Manitoba and Alberta. This is not a competitive offer.

Teachers in Saskatchewan are asking to be repositioned midway between their counterparts in Manitoba and Alberta. The offer of 5.5 per cent over three years is not the solution.

Graph 3