December 17, 2016 4:58 pm
Updated: December 19, 2016 11:35 am

Nova Scotia teachers’ salaries rank 6th among provinces: Stats Can

A new reporter from Statistics Canada ranks the average teachers salary in Nova Scotia sixth out of the ten provinces. As teachers return to contract talks Global's Marieke Walsh takes a closer look at their compensation.

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A report released this week by Statistics Canada places Nova Scotia sixth among provinces for teachers’ compensation.

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The report compares average salaries for teachers in each province and ranks them for starting salary and salaries throughout a teacher’s career. The comparison could add fuel to the fire as the government and Nova Scotia Teachers Union duke it out over compensation in contract talks that restarted Saturday.

READ MORE: Nova Scotia still counting on savings from rejected union contracts

Statistics Canada places Nova Scotia in the bottom half of salaries among provinces, but it also puts the Nova Scotia salaries ahead of those in Quebec and B.C. — provinces with much larger populations and economies.

The debate over compensation — particularly the long service award — is one of two major points of contention between the province and the union. The second covers classroom conditions and how they should be improved and guaranteed.

But the issue of compensation is where the government has drawn the hardest line in the sand. Below is a closer look at the compensation teachers currently receive:

Average teachers’ salary is $76,133

According to Statistics Canada, the average starting salary in 2013-14 for teachers in Nova Scotia was $56,149. The average salary at the top of the scale was $79,937.

According to numbers provided by the province, a teacher’s average salary in 2015 was $76,133. Statistics Canada’s most recent figures for Nova Scotia show the average full-time income was $52,600, in 2014.

Salaries increase in different scales based on the level of training but for each of the first five years that teachers work, their salaries increase between four and five per cent each year.

The highest salary for teachers in Nova Scotia is $92,286.

READ MORE: Nova Scotia government, teachers union to return to contract talks

Between 1996 and 2015, teachers received raises totalling $8,432.23, over and above inflation.

The province has offered a two-year wage freeze, followed by a three per cent increase over the following two years of the contract. The union’s counter offer was an eight per cent wage increase over the four years.

Top-up at retirement

Teachers also accrue a long service award based on years worked that is paid out on retirement or, in the event a teacher dies, paid out to their family.

Since 2003, the award has been calculated based on one per cent of a teacher’s salary in their last year of work, multiplied by the number of years worked. Teachers can only receive the benefit after working for ten years, and it can only be paid out for a maximum of 30 years.

READ MORE: Inclusion of special-needs students the unspoken issue in teachers’ dispute

The province wants to freeze long service awards retroactive to April 2015, and eliminate them going forward. It has already applied the freeze to non-union staff in the public sector and has budgeted the last two years with the expectation the service award will be frozen.

Teachers have spoken out against the freeze. The union says the service award was granted in previous negotiations in lieu of raises.

Government pays 100 per cent of medical premiums

The province pays 100 per cent of teachers’ medical and life insurance premiums. It also pays 65 per cent of dental benefits and 50 per cent of long term disability.

Premier Stephen McNeil has previously called out teachers for contributing less to their benefits than other public sector employees. But the union says its a “mutually agreed upon” benefit negotiated at the bargaining table.

Teachers are allowed up to 20 sick days per year and are allowed to accumulate up to 195 sick days over the course of their career. They are not paid out on retirement but the government says the accumulated days show up on the province’s books as a liability.

Teachers’ pensions not indexed — for now

Teachers are not guaranteed a pension that is indexed to cost of living increases, if they retired after August 1, 2006. However, teachers who retired before then do receive an annual cost-of-living increase.

According to the Nova Scotia Pension Services Corporation, teachers who retire after August 1, 2006 are subject to variable pensions, meaning they will only get a cost of living increase if the pension is fully funded. Last year’s annual report shows the pension is funded to 76.7 per cent.

A document from the Nova Scotia Teachers Pension Plan shows teachers’ pensions are calculated based on their highest average salary, multiplied by pensionable years of service, multiplied by two per cent. It decreases once a person also starts receiving CPP.

Salaries ‘reasonable’: HR executive

Gerald Walsh, president of Gerald Walsh Associates, an executive search and human resources firm in Halifax, said at first glance the teachers salaries appeared “reasonable” given the level of education most teachers have and the job they are assigned to do.

“They’re well qualified individuals,” Walsh said in an interview Friday. “We’re assigning them a pretty significant responsibility, which is the education of our children.”

Walsh led a report earlier this year that found members of Halifax Regional Council are paid too much.

He said public sector salaries are a frequent flashpoint for debate because taxpayers are sometimes paying for benefits that they themselves don’t receive.

“It’s really difficult to say if it’s too rich,” he said. “We will always have these arguments about public sector employees because essentially they’re being paid by everyone.”

© 2016 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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