North

N.W.T. teachers union says workloads a top priority for upcoming contract negotiations

The N.W.T. Teachers' Association says educators are overworked and not compensated for all the extra duties performed outside the classroom — a creative solution needs to be found.

Safety and cost of living also on the agenda

N.W.T.'s teachers union says educators are overworked and not compensated for all the extra duties performed outside the classroom — and a creative solution needs to be found.

The N.W.T. Teachers' Association and the territorial government are starting talks for a new contract for 488 members of the union, the majority of whom work outside of Yellowknife and in the territory's smaller communities.

N.W.T. Teachers' Association President Gayla Meredith says despite the territory's weak economic situation, teacher workloads need to be addressed during negotiations. (submitted)

The current contract expires on July 31.

N.W.T. Teachers' Association President Gayla Meredith says despite the territory's weak economic situation, teacher workloads need to be addressed during negotiations.

"Teachers are working over 50 hours a week just to fulfil their professional responsibilities," said Meredith.

"I think it's time for blue-sky thinking."

That out-of-the box thinking includes finding a way for teachers to have the time and resources to receive adequate training to best service students.

Most schools in the territory's smaller communities have combined grades, and students with different levels of capabilities. Meredith said some schools have as little as two staff.

"If there is learning that's specific for the students in their classroom that [teachers] need to have, they need to have time and resources to take that training," said Meredith.

"It's time to plan for students. It's time to learn more, stay abreast of the current research and best practices."

As for compensation, Meredith suggested teachers should be able to earn special leave for work done outside of school hours. She said the professional scope of a teacher is only vaguely defined in the territory, and it's difficult for teachers to know where their responsibilities end.

"An easy example is students who come to school hungry. There needs to be time taken to organize breakfast programs," said Meredith.

"Students need to eat in order to be prepared to learn. So, there are a lot of things that impact education that teachers are taking responsibility for doing."

Meredith said other priorities on the negotiating table are supporting a safe and healthy learning environment for staff and students, and ensuring that the overall compensation package fully takes into account the high cost of living and travel in the territory.

She said it's too early into negotiations to talk about the size of wage increase the association is looking for.

now