N.W.T. teachers' association negotiates 2.5% wage increase, different leave options

·3 min read

Teachers in the Northwest Territories are getting a 2.5 per cent wage increase.

It's part of the new one-year collective agreement that was made between the Northwest Territories Teachers' Association (NWTTA) and the territorial government, according to a news release issued on Monday. The wage increase matches the increase received in April by the rest of the government's public service sector.

The goal was to conclude a "fair and reasonable" deal during an "unprecedented school year." Negotiations began on June 2 and ended on June 17, the release says.

The agreement is only a year long because of the pandemic, said Matthew Miller, president of the Northwest Territories Teachers' Association, in an email to CBC. It will be renegotiated following the end of this school year.

"It is wonderful to see a fair agreement that provides stability and security during what may be the most challenging school year of our teachers' careers," said R.J. Simpson, minister of Education, Culture and Employment, in a statement.

'Stability ... during challenging time'

Other highlights of the agreement include changes made to the northern living allowance, which includes an increase of $450 to the base used for calculating the rates, the release says.

The new agreement also added language that recognizes both parties' commitment to prioritize and respect the Indigenous people and culture and what they've done for the territory.

There's also updates to the maternity and parental leave, in line with the federal insurance program, which provides access to longer time away from the job with no negative impacts to allowance payments. As well, domestic violence leave was added as a leave category.

We feel we've deferred things rather than completely withdrawn them. - Matthew Miller, NWTTA

There was also more language added to the agreement to ensure that teachers relocated to the territory provide at least one school year of service, or the term of the contract, whichever is less.

"Negotiating a new collective agreement can be challenging under even ideal conditions and the current fiscal and economic uncertainty are far less than ideal. We are grateful for the positive relationship with the NWTTA that helped in navigating these unique Challenges," said Caroline Wawzonek, minister of Finance, in a statement.

"The collective agreement between the [territorial government] and NWTTA could not have been reached if it wasn't for our shared focus on providing stability and security for our N.W.T. educators and students during this challenging time."

Money in members' pockets now: president

Miller said the group is pleased it reached the one-year collective agreement with the government in the midst of a pandemic, as the negotiations were done over video conferencing.

"I want to thank both sides for their professionalism and dedication to the processes," Miller said in a statement.

"This agreement has strengthened supports for educators at a time when workload and expectations continue to rise."

Miller says the association was looking for some immediate support for its members even though it didn't get everything it was looking for.

"We feel we've deferred things rather than completely withdrawn them," Miller said in an interview with CBC.

He says the association has a strong, "collegial" relationship with the territorial government, especially compared to other jurisdictions.

"We will be back at the table within the same year, but it does give members money in their pockets now."

Miller added that many teachers are already "June tired" and a big concern currently is holiday break and whether teachers will be able to leave the territory to visit family or friends.

The new agreement came into effect on Aug. 1 and will last through to July 31, 2021.