May 29, 2017
Slight Fee Increase Approved
Fees for MTS members will increase to $988 from $976 in 2017-2018.
Delegates to the MTS annual Provincial Council approved the budget recommended by the provincial executive.
The increase amounts to less than 1.5 per cent.
The total budget for MTS, excluding the Disability Benefits Plan, will be $15.5 million for the upcoming year.
The fee for the Disability Benefits Plan remains at 1.39 per cent of salary, subject to change in March, 2018.
New Provincial Executive
Following elections at the annual meeting of the MTS Provincial Council, the following is the provincial executive for 2017-2018:
Norm Gould, President
James Bedford, Vice-president
Ashleigh Deeley Michaluk
MTS Bows Out of We Day
The Manitoba Teachers’ Society will no longer be involved in promoting or participating in We Day events.
Delegates to annual meeting agreed with a recommendation from the organization’s Equity and Social Justice Committee and provincial executive.
“The Manitoba Teachers’ Society model of social justice is not reflected in We Day,” the resolution said. “We Day doesn’t promote, support or include a model of social justice that the Society identifies as effective in advancing social change. We Day is more of a charity model that doesn’t address the roots for systemic inequity.”
We Day is a yearly concert and speaker series attended by tens of thousands of students in Canada, the U.S. and Britain.
In recent years it has attracted controversy because of the number of corporate sponsors involved in the events. Some of those sponsors have been accused of actions in other countries that run counter to the messages on which We Day is based.
The decision by delegates does not extend to the involvement of schools and students. In the past, both MTS staff and elected officials have promoted and been participants in We Day.
Delegates: Province Should Pull Out of PISA
MTS will ask the provincial government to withdraw participation from the Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA).
Delegates agreed that continued involvement in the international standardized tests is not worthwhile.
“The Society has carefully considered the research around the costs and benefits associated with continued participation in these … tests. The results of these standardized tests too often drive very narrow agendas rather than supporting positive decision-making with respect to broad, high-quality public education policy and funding.”
PISA has been roundly criticized by many educators for a wide variety of reasons.
May 26, 2017
Pensions: ‘No need for rate increase’
The Manitoba teachers’ pension plan is doing well and there is no need at the moment for any adjustments, says Jeff Norton, chief executive officer of the Teachers’ Retirement Allowances Fund.
“No immediate contribution rate increases or benefit adjustment are required,” he told delegates to the MTS annual Provincial Council meeting.
Norton said investment revenue and member contributions have meant the plan is 100 per cent funded, a level that hasn’t been achieved since the economic downturn in 2008.
Delegates were warned, however, that the situation can always change depending on “adverse events such as unexpected increases in longevity or a prolonged drop in investment returns.”
As with other pension plans, the longevity of retirees has a significant impact. Retirees are living longer, with many receiving a pension for more years than they worked. And TRAF expects that within the next two or three years there will be more retirees collecting benefits than active teachers.
Currently there are 16,212 active teachers compared with 14,554 retirees. Currently TRAF projects that the average number of years a retiring teacher will be on pension will be 30 years for women and 28 years for men.
Delegates were also told:
- The plan has 19 retirees over 100 years old; the oldest being 106.
- The average age at which teachers now retire is 60 for men and 59.6 for women.
- The average years of service for new retirees is 28.4 for men and 25.8 for women.
- The average age for active teachers is 43 and for retirees, 71.
- More than 2,500 members will be eligible to retire in the next few years.
- The average monthly pension for new retirees is $3,182 a month for men and $2,857 for women, many whom have breaks in service for maternity leave.
Teachers Hear a Warning from Across the Border
Manitoba public school teachers were warned that the provincial government is on a path to defund, destabilize and destroy public education, a top U.S. educator told delegates to the annual MTS Provincial Council.
Mary Cathryn Ricker, a vice-president with the American Federation of Teachers, said initiatives by the province here are similar to those seen previously in the United States.
She said it is an old playbook, whereby conservative governments create crisis after crisis to justify extreme measures to meet the manufactured problems.
“Your provincial government is enamoured with this defund, destabilize and destroy playbook.”
She cited recent moves by the province to freeze teachers’ salaries, cut overall funding for public school education, scrap class-size caps and look at ways to privatize certain aspects of education.
While politicians may say they are thinking of the students, teachers should let them know that they are more concerned about what is best for their students.
“It is our job to let everyone know that we think about the kids so often we’ve made it our day job,” she said. “These moves your provincial government have made are hardly the answer … to help students achieve their potential.”
All teachers have to speak out about their commitment to public school education and use their union power for the common good.
The AFT has reached out and become partners with other community organizations to fight for resources in public education and add its voice to other social issues. It is clear in its vision of what is needed to improve education.
In the speech, punctuated by bursts of applause, Ricker said the union argues for what is needed as well as what is wrong.
“We will not just fight back, but we will fight forward. We must continue to enhance and elevate that vision, fighting for progress.”
May 25, 2017
Teachers and students are heading into trying times in Manitoba, says the president of The Manitoba Teachers’ Society, Norm Gould.
In his address opening the 98th annual meeting of the MTS Provincial Council, Gould told the more than 300 delegates that the provincial government has shown some disregard for education.
“We will continue to be asked to do more with less and under increased pressure,” he said. “I foresee a testing regime in the province the likes of which we haven’t seen in years, increasing class sizes, threats to teacher autonomy, a cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all approach to education and attacks on our professionalism.”
Gould said that a year ago it was unclear what the provincial government’s approach to education would be.
That picture has come into focus.
“The government has shown its true colours.”
Gould ran through a number of initiatives the province has taken that will diminish classroom resources and the collective bargaining rights of teachers. As well, the government has placed the burden of its supposed fiscal problems on public sector workers.
“The premier likes to say that we need ‘all hands on deck’ to right this ship, but in reality it is the public sector workers who are in the bowels of the boat rowing toward his destination.”
Gould pointed out that supposed consultation with unions in advance of initiatives such as public sector salary freezes and the scrapping of class size caps accomplished nothing. The only result was that public sector workers, including teachers, will pay a high price.
Two years of salary freezes followed by two years of slight increases, as outlined in Bill 28, will cost every teacher in the province over $15,400.
“That’s a lot less money we’re all going to have to invest in the Manitoba economy or in savings for our children’s future,” he said. “And to add insult to injury, this money isn’t even going to fund the deficit, but to fund the province’s Fiscal Stabilization Fund, also known as the rainy day fund, which is targeted to sit at $225 million by 2020.”
Gould said all teachers and their partners in education need to make their voices heard by this government.
“I cannot stress enough how important that is as we enter into this new normal defined by austerity. The truest way we can honour those who have fought to advance and safeguard public education and the status of the teaching profession is to remain united, eliminate complacency and use every tool at our disposal to mobilize our members and our allies.”
Minister Ignores Issues
Provincial Education Minister Ian Wishart followed Gould’s speech in addressing the annual general meeting, but steered clear of any issues facing education, educators and students. In different words, he simply repeated the message that the province is ready to work with teachers.
Wishart said the province is facing a number of challenges and “we have to work together to meet these challenges.”
He said the province has a history of working together to solve problems and “I challenge you and encourage you to work together with us to get a better result for all Manitobans.”