Some provincial education unions have fared better on the negotiations front. Through their local bargaining, Manitoba teachers avoided salary freezes by achieving settlements averaging two percent for 2014–15, 2015–16, 2016–17, and 3.02 percent for 2017–18. The Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers’ Association (NTLA) negotiated a wage package in 2009 that gave their members a 21.5 percent increase over four years that helped address the fact they earn the lowest teacher salaries in the country. In July 2014, NTLA signed a four-year agreement that included a five percent salary increase plus a signing bonus of $1,400. In the Yukon, Nunavut and the Northwest Territories, where teacher recruitment and retention are constant challenges and the cost of living is high, teachers continue to be the top-earners in the country.
Pent-Up Demand for Education Reforms
Over the last decade or so, Ontario has introduced important education initiatives such as primary class size caps and full day Kindergarten. The Liberal government has increased education funding since taking office in 2003, but the additional funding has only gone part way in addressing the $2 billion in cuts imposed by the former Progressive Conservative government. Not all cuts implemented by the previous government have been restored. Programs such as special education, English as a second language, design and technology, physical education, and the arts continue to be shortchanged at the elementary level. ETFO’s Building Better Schools initiative presents a plan for moving forward on these issues, but the additional investment conflicts with the provincial government’s austerity agenda. The 2016 Ontario budget projects that annual increases to education spending will average only 1.2 percent between 2014–15 and 2018–19.