Members' fees to go down more than five per cent in coming year
May 26, 2012
MTS members will see a 5.4 per cent reduction in their annual fee in the coming year, following adoption of the 2012-2013 budget at the Society’s Annual General Meeting.
The fee will be $835, down from $882.
The provincial executive had proposed a budget that would have seen a reduction in members' fees of 6.1 per cent, but AGM delegates made some changes.
Delegates decided to add more than $20,000 to the budget to create committees to examine parts of MTS operations including The Manitoba Teacher and the organization of Special Area Groups of Educators (SAGE).
They also approved a $20,000 addition to the budget to fund creation of a system whereby provincial executive meetings could be broadcast to members over the Internet.
Other than those additions, the budget keeps expenditures at about the same level as this year. The fee was reduced by transfers of funds from accumulated surpluses to operating expenses.
Along with a membership fee decrease in the regular budget, AGM delegates also approved a recommendation that premiums for the MTS Disability Benefits Plan be reduced to 1.62 per cent of salary from 1.94 per cent, a drop of about $210 for a teacher earning $70,000 a year.
Teachers growing more concerned about EAs doing teaching duties
May 26, 2012
Many teachers across the province are growing concerned about teaching responsibilities being done by education assistants.
That was the message from a few teachers’ associations at the MTS Annual General Meeting.
Delegates voted to lobby the provincial government to define a process “for the laying, investigating and resolving complaints” around non-teachers performing teaching duties.
The Rolling River Teachers’ Association, which introduced the issue, said the issue is serious and growing.
“In some schools EAs outnumber teachers,” said Rolling River President Dan Kiazyk. “EAs are doing teachers’ job.”
He said it has become increasingly vague as to where an EA’s responsibility ends and a teacher’s professional responsibility begins.
“This is contrary to the welfare of students and teachers.”
Delegates vote to support teaching curriculum to all students
May 26, 2012
MTS will ask the provincial government to not allow parents to opt their children out of any portions of the Manitoba curriculum.
Delegates to the Society’s annual meeting voted to lobby the province after a long debate that touched on a wide-range of aspects of the curriculum.
While the original intent of the resolution was that parents not be allowed to opt students out of human sexuality instruction, delegates voted to make the policy more comprehensive as an apparent show of support for the full curriculum.
Teachers opposed to the move were mostly concerned about the perception MTS was against choice by parents and also that some Hutterite colonies might leave the public education system.
Those in favour said the vote showed support for the curriculum and that all students should be exposed to it, while value judgements and context can be left to parents to discuss with their children.
Provincial executive set for 2012-2013
May 26, 2012
Three new members of the MTS provincial executive were elected at the Society’s Annual General Meeting.
The new members are Ray Desautels, Sean Kemball and Jason Oliver. Returning members elected were Arlyn Filewich and James Bedford, who was appointed to fill a vacant position on the board several months ago.
The full provincial executive for 2012-2013 is:
Members at large:
Teachers want guaranteed time to deal with new report cards.
May 25, 2012
MTS will lobby the provincial government to provide dedicated time for teachers to train for the writing of the new provincial report cards.
Delegates to the Society’s Annual General Meeting directed the executive to approach the province to allot an additional day of administrative time next year to be devoted solely to training. It also said training must be done before preparation of the first report card.
Next year usage of the report cards will be voluntary in school divisions, but will be mandatory for all divisions in the following year.
The resolution, from the Louis Riel Teachers’ Association, said the extra day would guarantee training time “while not reducing the current number of PD days granted by the province.”
Delegates also voted in favour of having MTS lobby the province for one-half day per reporting period “devoted solely to report card preparations” to come from existing administration days.
The goal of the resolution is to guarantee time for teachers “that could not be eliminated, altered or substituted by the division or individual school.”
Cut to Disability Benefits premiums approved by AGM
May 25, 2012
MTS members will see a cut next year in the premiums they pay for the Disability Benefits Plan.
Delegates to the MTS AGM voted to accept a recommendation to cut premiums to 1.62 per cent of salary from 1.94 per cent.
The reduction will be about $210 for a teacher earning $70,000 a year.
More eligible teachers holding off on retirement
May 25, 2012
The number of Manitoba teachers retiring in 2011 declined from 2010, leaving almost 2,500 eligible to retire this year, says the Teachers’ Retirement Allowances Fund.
The number of teachers opting to retire each year has declined since 2005 when almost 700 chose to get their pensions. In 2009 that dropped to fewer than 400. In 2011 542 pensions were initiated, down from 613 in 2010.
This year, the plan expects 500 teachers to retire. That would leave about 2,000 teachers who are eligible for pensions continuing to teach and another 2,300 in the 50-55 age group eligible in the next five years.
Those were just some of the trends outlined by teachers’ pension plan officials at the MTS Annual General Meeting.
Brenda Venuto, TRAF vice-president of member services, said there appears to be a correlation between the numbers of teachers who retire in any given year and how the markets and teachers’ personal investments are doing.
With the decline in retirements, the average age of retirees has been increasing. In 2010, the average age for retirement was 58.9, today it is 59.3.
On average men retire after 29.8 years of service, with women retiring after 26.7 years. The average monthly pension for women retiring now is $2,530 and for men, $2,889.
Jeff Norton, president and CEO of TRAF, pointed out that members on average are now projected to draw a pension for a period longer than their teaching careers. The pension plan now has 15 members more than 100 years old.
Norton said that the extended life expectancies do necessitate contribution rate increases over time. Last year the provincial government approved a premium rate increase by two per cent of salary to be phased in over four years.
The plan is currently operating at a deficit, but it is not a crisis. Such fluctuations occur over time.
Norton said the plan is looking to reach fully-funded status by 2029.
“The plan would need to earn 7.04 per cent per annum on its investments, net of fees, from 2009 to 2029 to eliminate the current deficit and achieve a funded status of 100 per cent by 2029.
“While this return target is more than the current actuarial assumption of 6.25 per cent, it is within a reasonable range of possibilities without taking undue risk.”
New penalties supported for unprofessional conduct
May 24, 2012
The Manitoba Teachers’ Society wants a substantial increase to the penalties assessed for members convicted of unprofessional conduct or conduct unbecoming a teacher.
Delegates to the MTS Annual General Meeting voted in favour of new penalties, including fines of up to $2,000, suspension or termination of MTS membership and payment of costs up to $5,000.
If approved by the provincial government, the changes would effectively give the Society, through its review committee, the power to impose the new penalties. Currently, the committee can only admonish, censure or recommend the education minister revoke or suspend a teacher’s certificate.
The new penalties would be included in changes to the MTS constitution which would need approval of the provincial government. The Society constitution is included in provincial law, The Manitoba Teachers’ Society Act, and therefore can only be changed through an act of the Legislature.
MTS Vice-President Norm Gould, chair of the committee that reviewed the Code of Professional Practice, said the province is aware that the Society was looking at recommended changes to the constitution and “is very receptive.”
As well as recommending changes to the constitution, the committee suggested changes to the Code of Professional Practice itself. Those changes (outlined below) do not need provincial approval.
The penalties for unprofessional conduct were the main alterations to the constitution recommended by the committee. Other changes included making clear that unprofessional conduct can come from both an act or omission and the process for which a terminated member can be reinstated.
Gould said the recommended changes were determined by the committee after reviewing what is done in other jurisdictions and in other unions and after looking at past cases and getting legal opinions.
He said the changes provide new tools for the Society in dealing with unprofessional conduct.
The possibility of suspending or terminating a teacher’s membership in the Society drew the most questions from AGM delegates.
Gould said a suspended or terminated member would continue to pay the MTS annual fee, but would not be eligible for any MTS services. They would not pay the fees for the Disability Benefits Plan and would not be eligible for its services.
While provincial legislation makes membership in MTS mandatory for public school teachers, the committee has a legal opinion that the new changes would not mean a teacher whose membership is suspended couldn’t continue to teach. In effect, they would still be members, but suspended members.
And if any employer used such suspension as a pretext to fire a suspended member, MTS would fight such a move as a wrongful dismissal. The existing penalty, to recommend to the minister that a teacher’s certificate be revoked, would remain in the new document.
Changes made to Code of Professional Practice
May 24, 2012
While approving stronger penalties for unprofessional conduct, delegates also voted to make changes to the Code of Professional Practice.
The changes emphasize the role good faith plays in a member's conduct.
One addition is that “A member’s conduct is characterised by consideration and good faith. She or he speaks and acts with respect and dignity ...”
Another addition is that any criticism of the professional activity of a colleague be first directed to that person. The change now says any criticism of “the professional activity and related work” of the colleague.
However, it also adds sections in which members do not have to talk to the offending person first such as when “taking any action that is allowed or mandated by legislation” or “where a member acting in good faith and without malice in the discharge of the legitimate duties of his or her appointed elected position.”
It was pointed out that under certain laws anonymity is guaranteed or mandated for people reporting workplace problems.
Education minister says teachers integral to new measures on education
May 24, 2012
The “greatest investment” made in public education in Manitoba is the commitment and dedication of teachers, says Education Minister Nancy Allan.
Speaking to the 93rd Annual General Meeting of The Manitoba Teachers’ Society, Allan thanked MTS and its members for its work on a list of measures to strengthen the education system in the province.
She said MTS has been instrumental in government decisions such as the reduction of class sizes in K-3 and introduction of province-wide report cards.
Although Allan has been attackedn by the Opposition in the Legislature for consulting MTS, she makes no apologies.
“I recognize that MTS is the voice of teachers.”
As was the case with previous speeches, Allan reaffirmed that the provincial government is committed to building a “seamless” education system from “cradle to career.”
“Education has become more essential,” she said, pointing out that 70 per cent of new jobs require at least some post-secondary education.
She highlighted steps taken to improve early years education and, at the other end, to ensure high school students graduate. Among those is increasing the school leaving age to 18 from 16. It was the first time the age had been increased since 1965, when it went from 15 to 16.
Despite what she called the toughest budget since 1995, the province again increased the amount of money going into public education. Expenditures are increasing more than two per cent this year and have increased more than 50 per cent since 1995.
Included in future expenditures will also be costs associated with keeping K-3 classes at 20 students. That will mean the creation of 240 new teaching positions.
All the decisions in education are integral to the economic growth of the province.
“You cannot have an economic strategy without an education strategy,” she said.
Study into alternate memberships defeated
May 24, 2012
A resolution that some delegates to the MTS Annual General Meeting felt would divide the union, was soundly defeated.
The province’s largest teacher association, The Winnipeg Teachers’ Association, wanted MTS to investigate alternate types of membership for associations.
It called for a study to look at “development of a mechanism that will allow for an alternate membership a teacher association within the Society.”
WTA President Dave Nadjuch said there are a variety of membership structures in organizations across the country that might be worth considering.
“If the concern is breaking up the Society, that is not what it says,” he said. “It’s not about leaving the Society, it’s not about getting out.”
A number of speakers in opposition said the resolution seemed to be pointed in a specific direction – away from membership in the Society. While the resolution called for a general study, it also specifically called for “continued inclusion in the Disability Benefits Plan.”
The WTA said the goal of the resolution “would be to provide a model that would allow for teacher associations to continue membership in the Society but with a different structure and level of service.”
One speaker seemed to sum up the mood of most delegates, saying she was more interested in passing resolutions “that strengthen us and unite us.” She said establishing different levels of membership would do the opposite.
Society to look into combining DBP and EAP
May 24, 2012
Delegates at the AGM decided that MTS should look into combining the Disability Benefits Plan and Educator Assistance Program.
The Society will conduct a feasibility study into the idea and present recommendations to next year’s AGM.
The River East Transcona Teachers’ Association, which introduced the idea, said “in the interest of efficiency and consistency, the pros and cons of having EAP integrated into DBP should be fully explored.”
Manitoba teachers must ensure bad times don't return: MTS president
May 24, 2012
Manitoba teachers are in an enviable position, not having to face the cuts and attacks being implemented in other provinces, says MTS President Paul Olson.
“With very few exceptions, the problems and challenges ... from around Canada were the reality here in Manitoba as recently as a dozen years ago,” he told delegates to the MTS Annual General Meeting. “And odds are pretty fair that any number of them will make their way back here again.”
Teachers in Manitoba have worked hard to make the gains they have, but it would be folly to think that makes the province immune from the pressures being felt elsewhere.
“So we help our colleagues nationally, just as we struggle with our own challenges within the province, and within our associations, and try to build not just a ‘current reality’ of what we believe in, but a broader political and social context that supports and protects those good practices.”
For example, he said, slavery was abolished not because any particular party was in power but because people created a context where no party would dare consider it again.
“That is the effect of changing the context, and not just the government.”
There are also more issues on the horizon that need the same level of energy that has worked in the past.
Looking ahead, Olson said progress has been made toward getting a better, more comprehensive set of school system indicators in place in Manitoba.
“Properly implemented, these could put real faces and stories on the education finance numbers we've had for years, but now tell those stories in terms of real resources -- or the lack of them -- for teachers and students.
“We have the Premier's and the Minister's attention on this file already, and they have committed to further discussions with us in this area.”
As well, Olson said he has begun discussions with a number of other teacher organizations throughout Canada in terms of their governance models and decision making structures.
Olson and MTS General Secretary Ken Pearce have been examining the seven-year process the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation undertook to change its governance framework.
“Ken and I have been discussing what we in Manitoba might learn from the STF, and we will begin discussions with the new executive in the fall about what ideas we might be willing to explore, and ultimately implement or recommend for MTS.”