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This article was published 21/3/2018 (542 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
Manitoba's 15,000 teachers will defy Premier Brian Pallister by asking for raises when they open bargaining with their school divisions next month.
"We're preparing for good-faith bargaining, including monetary, absolutely." Manitoba Teachers' Society president Norm Gould said in an interview.
The teachers' case for a potential raise was reinforced Tuesday when Education Minister Ian Wishart let pass the deadline for making provincial bargaining the law by the time teachers' collective-bargaining agreements expire June 30, Gould said.
Wishart would have needed to introduce amendments to the Public Schools Act to get changes passed by June 4 when the current sitting ends.
The provincial government's wage control Bill 28 has been passed, but not proclaimed, so teachers will bargain normally, Gould said, noting their current CBAs require notice of initial bargaining positions be tabled in April.
"Unless there's legislation, and amendments to the Public Schools Act, the status quo stands and we will be entering into collective bargaining with the school divisions," Gould declared.
Bill 28 imposes wage controls on 120,000 public-sector workers in their next collective bargaining agreement. It freezes wage and benefit increases for two years, allows up to 0.75 per cent increases in the third year, and 1.0 per cent in the fourth.
Wishart announced last month he would implement province-wide bargaining under conditions of Bill 28 this summer.
An official with the department of education said Wishart had never said when he would introduce the necessary legislation.
"Manitoba Education and Training is currently consulting with Manitoba School Boards Association and MTS as the province moves toward provincial bargaining. The minister did not commit to a timeline," said the official.
Wishart's press secretary Andrea Slobodian said the minister would not add anything to the civil service statement, except to note his timing has nothing to do with a court case in Nova Scotia involving wage controls for public servants in which Pallister is intervening.
Manitoba has intervener status in a case Gould said is expected to go before the Nova Scotia court of appeals by October. Nova Scotia teachers are challenging the constitutionality of that province's wage restraints. Here, MTS is part of a 25-union labour coalition claiming Bill 28 is unconstitutional.
The coalition is seeking an injunction against Bill 28 in court May 29 and 30, to block the government's wage controls until the constitutional challenge can be heard.
Nova Scotia is far ahead of Manitoba in getting a potential court ruling, so what happens in Halifax, or subsequently at the Supreme Court of Canada, could determine what happens to a key factor in Pallister's austerity plan.
"The Manitoba government is the only intervener," said Gould, noting Nova Scotia's Bill 148 is identical to Manitoba's with the exception that the Nova Scotia bill limits increases in the third year to 0.5 per cent.
NDP leader Wab Kinew continued to accuse Pallister in question period Tuesday of wasting taxpayers' money in Nova Scotia while not joining Ottawa in a court case against Omnitrax over the American company's refusal to fix the broken rail line to Churchill.
"The premier is interfering in another province's affairs," Kinew said.
Manitoba has spent $3,500 so far on legal fees, Pallister said. He is supporting the Nova Scotia government to protect the provincial government's efforts to get Manitoba's spending and deficit under control, the premier said.
Trustees did not comment on the teachers' plan to table their bargaining positions, but Manitoba School Boards Association president Ken Cameron said all groups involved in the process remained focused on providing quality education for students.
"The government's intention to move to a single provincial bargaining table is a significant change in our province and stakeholders are reviewing all available options to ensure that resources remain dedicated to our kids and our communities, no matter what decisions are made," he said.
The median salary for a typical teacher with 10 years' experience is $92,013, according to the MTS. Under the expiring four-year CBA, teachers received two per cent annual increases for the first three years, and two 1.5 per cent increases in September and January of the final year.
Wishart said that every one per cent in raises that teachers don't get in their next CBA saves school divisions $13.1 million.