Catholic board asks teachers for sacrifice
Negotiations between trustees and union break off

by Jennifer Pritchett
Northern News Services

NNSL (Mar 14/97) - Yellowknife's Catholic school board wants teachers to share the burden of funding cuts, but the teachers aren't buying into the board's wishes.

"Negotiations came to a head at yesterday's meeting Mar. 11 (with the teachers' union)," said Noel O'Sullivan, chairman of the school board.

The board has asked the federal minister of labor for a conciliator to help solve the dispute.

Pat Thomas, president of the NWT Teachers' Association, said the dispute doesn't put them in a strike position yet.

Negotiations to renew the collective agreement have been going on for a year. The last contract expired on June 30, 1996. The union rejected the GNWT's final offer because of reductions in benefits.

O'Sullivan said the board has never before been in such a bad financial position. "We're strapped -- we're behind the 8-ball for the upcoming year," he said.

The school board estimates a shortfall of $730,000 in funding for teachers' salaries in the 1996-97 year and anticipates a further loss of $670,000 in 1997-98, based on the GNWT funding formula.

The board asked the teachers to share the load of the financial shortfall by accepting a reduction in salaries, housing allowances and travel benefits.

Furthermore, the board maintains that the NWTTA's proposal to raise salaries is irresponsible given the current financial climate.

Annalise Van Ham, head of business affairs with the board, said the district doesn't have the funds to cover the foregone revenue. "We are in a very minimum position as far as our accumulated surplus is now," she said.

Loretta Foley, superintendent of the board, said the district has lost $900,000 in funding.