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Occasional teachers plan low-level sanctions

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Local occasional secondary teachers are planning to implement low-level sanctions beginning next Monday (Feb. 20) following a breakdown in talks with the Rainy River District School Board.

“We don’t want to rush into this with guns blazing,” said Andrew Hallikas, chief negotiator for local occasional secondary teachers.

“We want to have a meaningful dialogue with [the board]. We would like to settle this by bargaining,” he added. “Right now, it seems both sides are pretty entrenched.”

The teachers recently rejected an offer by the board, including the same salary increase accepted by local elementary occasional teachers earlier this month.

Hallikas explained that while the money offered is satisfactory, what the secondary occasional teachers want is for their rate of pay to be tied to the salary grid for regular ones.

Over the last several years, regular teachers’ wages have gone up by 21 percent while occasional teachers’ wages have gone up only five percent.

Since 2000, local secondary occasional teachers’ wages have slipped from being the sixth best in the province to 26th out of 31.

While the current wage offered by the board is acceptable, the occasional teachers’ wage eventually would drop over time in relation to regular teachers again unless the wage is tied to the salary grid.

“What we ideally would like to be paid is the same daily rate as the lowest-paid teacher on the board,” Hallikas explained.

With their wages tied to those of regular teachers, occasional teachers would receive a raise each time their regular counterparts did.

Hallikas noted the Lakehead District School Board in Thunder Bay and the Superior-Greenstone District School Board already have settled with their occasional secondary teachers and have agreed to have their salaries tied to the grid.

“It’s not like this is something that is revolutionary. That’s the trend. That’s the way things are going,” he said.

Occasional teachers fill in for both short- and long-term periods when regular teachers are ill or absent. They possess the same qualifications as regular teachers.

“We employ occasional teachers to continue to provide excellent programs while contract teachers are absent for professional development,” Jack McMaster, the local public board’s director of education said in a press release last week.

“Thus the focus on student achievement is supported by the occasional teachers and it is our hope that we can continue without disruption,” he added.

The secondary occasional teachers have been in a legal strike position since late December, and voted 100 percent in favour of strike action earlier that month.

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