Territorial teachers strike deal

After chalkboards are wiped down and the final school bell rings, Yukon teachers have something to look forward to this summer.

After chalkboards are wiped down and the final school bell rings, Yukon teachers have something to look forward to this summer.

As of July 1, they will be making more money.

And the number three is key.

Each year, for three years, the territory’s teachers, education assistants, remedial tutors and native language instructors will pocket three per cent more money.

The wage hike, announced last week, will be split in two.

Educators will get 1.8 per cent of the yearly increase in July, followed by 1.2 per cent in March.

The Yukon government and the Yukon Teachers’ Association reached the deal in April.

It will be valid until June 30, 2009.

Remedial tutors and education assistants are also set to gain another one per cent.

However, it will not be tacked on to their yearly wages.

The pay grid itself has gone up, said Yukon Teachers’ Association president Sandra Henderson.

The base salary for tutors and assistants at every level has been bumped up by one per cent.

“There was a bit of an imbalance over time,” said the Yukon government’s acting director of staff relations, Jock Bryce.

Some assistants and tutors will also be brought on as permanent staff, said Henderson.

“Many particular employees were temporary every year,” said Henderson.

“Some of them have been temporary for eight or nine years.”

The government has said it “will convert many of them to being permanent employees,” added Henderson.

“The need is definitely there.”

There will be no more “fudge factor” in classroom sizes either, said Henderson.

The territorial maximum for students per classroom has been somewhat flexible in the past.

The numbers are concrete now.

“Under the old provisions, there was an effective buffer-zone that allowed class sizes to be reached, and in some cases exceeded, without necessarily requiring action by the school,” said Bryce.

“And we’ve tightened that up.”

No more than 23 primary students, 26 intermediate students (Grades 4 to 9) and 28 senior students (Grades 10 to 12) can fill desks in Yukon classrooms.

And if there are too many students?

“In most cases the school will be expected to take action to address some of these issues,” said Bryce.

This could include bringing on more teachers or assistants, or creating a new classroom if it’s feasible at the school, added Bryce.

There is an exception.

Extra students will still be allowed into specialized classes like shop and band.

“Sometimes kids have to come from another school to do it,” said Henderson.

“If there’s one or two kids are you going to turn them away?”

The new deal will also give teachers more credit for continuing their own education.

New pay categories have been added for teachers who pursue non-degree programs and for aboriginal language instructors with degrees.

Voter turnout was high, said Henderson.

Of 689 eligible voters, 614 cast ballots — or 89 per cent.

The majority, 78 per cent, voted for the deal, while 22 per cent voted against it.

Henderson was also re-elected president of the association, Saturday.

Dealing with class size will be a key issue during her second term.