The Alberta government should roll back teachers' wages during upcoming negotiations, says the Canadian Taxpayers Federation.
"If the teachers union asked for a raise now, the degree to which they would be out of touch is almost incomprehensible," the federation's Alberta director, Paige MacPherson, said Thursday in a news release.
With the province staring down a potential $10.4 billion deficit, teachers should not be exempt from spending reductions, MacPherson said.
To bolster its argument, the federation released data from the B.C. Teachers Federation, which the CTF say shows Alberta teachers are the highest paid of any province.
The CTF release said for Alberta teachers earning at the top of the pay scale, a 10-per-cent wage rollback would mean an average salary of $89,104 – nearly $4,000 higher than the national average.
"By every reasonable measure, teachers' salaries are out of touch with the economic realities faced by the province," MacPherson said. "Rolling back salaries is a way to save money on education without hurting students."
Education Minister David Eggen said Wednesday that negotiations he'll undertake with teachers will likely set the tone for many other public-service bargaining in the coming weeks and months.
Legislation passed in December changed the bargaining process. Unlike past negotiations, the province now sits directly at the bargaining table when it comes to "big-ticket" items such as salaries, Eggen said.
All Albertans make more, ATA says
"I don't really understand why the Canadian Taxpayers Association is singling out teachers," said Jonathan Teghtmeyer, a spokesperson with the Alberta Teachers' Association.
"The fact is Albertans make more than their counterparts across the country, regardless of the line of work that they're in."
He cited labour salary figures showing industry workers in the province make 35 per cent more than the national average, while managers earn 29 per cent more and administrators 27 per cent.
Teghtmeyer also argues that Alberta has seen 82,000 new students enter classrooms, but the relative number of teachers has not kept pace.
Teachers should be compensated for the added onslaught, he said.
"For every teacher that we've hired, we've had 50 additional students. So you can imagine that each of those teachers has a class size — right off the bat — of 50."
McPherson argued that the savings in teachers' salaries could allow the school system to divert the funds for students further down the line.
"In addition to paying our debt off and taking the burden off future generations, we could also pay for more things like more textbooks, like more teachers if we need that," she said.
"We're talking a spending reduction that isn't going to hurt students."