Ontario elementary teachers

The last contract expired at the end of August. (CBC)

The Prince Edward Island Teachers' Federation has voted to take contract talks with the province to binding arbitration after the two sides failed to reach an agreement through conciliation.

Federation president Bethany MacLeod said some of the key issues still outstanding are around working conditions for Island teachers.

"Preparation time is a huge one," she said. "Class composition. We'd like I guess government to be more understanding of what class composition really means in today's changing classroom … just that we need more supports in the classroom, more resources."

'"I think the biggest thing is that teachers want to be treated fairly in comparison to what other unions received in their negotiations.' — Bethany MacLeod, P.E.I Teachers' Federation 

MacLeod said teacher salaries were also a stumbling block. The union wouldn't say what government was offering, but confirmed it was a five-year contract in which teachers would see no salary increase at all in at least one of the five years.

"And with the working conditions changing how much they do every year I don't think it would be fair to ask teachers to accept that," she said.

"I think the biggest thing is that teachers want to be treated fairly in comparison to what other unions received in their negotiations." 

The P.E.I. Department of Education, Early Learning & Culture issued a brief written statement which said "the department remains hopeful that an agreement can be reached to ensure sustainable supports for our Island learners."

Rocky road to new deal

The last contract between the province and its 2,200 teachers expired at the end of August. Negotiations on a new contract have been rocky, with the PEITF walking away from negotiations in June and again in October.

Bethany MacLeod P.E.I. Teachers' Federation

P.E.I. teachers will take their contract negotiations to binding arbitration, says Teachers' Federation president Bethany MacLeod. (CBC)

The federation said it was applying for binding arbitration the last time talks broke down, but later agreed to attempt non-binding conciliation as an interim step.

The union told its members in a letter in October before conciliation that the financial offer from the province didn't match what other unions were receiving, concluding that "once again, teachers have been undervalued and disrespected by government."

Teachers on P.E.I. do not have the right to strike.