Teachers strike may be over
NWTTA backs agreement

Dane Gibson
Northern News Services

Yellowknife (Jan 26/00) - It took NWT Premier Stephen Kakfwi's signature to convince Pat Thomas that the GNWT was serious about resolving the teachers strike.

Thomas is the NWT Teachers' Association president and is on the bargaining team that represents the 400 teachers outside of Yellowknife.

On Monday, Kakfwi and Thomas signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) that sweetens the collective agreement that was previously rejected by teachers. In the memorandum, the government agreed to commit $14 million over the next four years to address special needs support and class size -- $4.6 million of that total is to be spent in 2000/2001.

"The MOA is as good as gold because Stephen Kakfwi signed it," said Thomas.

"This is a big deal. The money that's going into it means every child and teacher in the NWT is going to benefit."

The new collective agreement includes a 6.25 per cent raise over two years, an increased professional allowance of $1,000 in the first year and $500 in the second, and an average increase of 15 per cent to the Northern allowance funding.

Thomas said all teachers working outside of Yellowknife will be voting on the deal Jan. 31.

"I'm really happy about this. It's a start towards improving the system," said Thomas.

"I know our membership will vote in favour of it -- I would."

Education, Culture and Employment deputy minister Mark Cleveland said the MOA means the teacher/student ratio will be reduced from an average of 18 students per teacher to 16 per teacher over four years. Student support funding will increase from eight per cent of the total education budget to 15 per cent.

"The value of this is there will be more teachers in the system and more resources to provide support to students in the schools," said Cleveland.

"These agreements will lead directly to an improvement in the learning environment in our schools."