Election season, a new government and Covid-19 delayed the signing ceremony, but on Jan. 19, the Government of Nunavut and the Nunavut Teachers Association (NTA) signed into effect a new four-year collective agreement starting retroactively on July 1, 2021 following September negotiations. The new agreement expires June 30, 2025.

New annual wage increases totaling a seven percent increase over four years is one of the largest salary increases teachers will be getting in Canada thus far, according to Justin Matchett, president of the Nunavut Teachers Association.

“By doing so we feel that the Government of Nunavut is recognizing the hard work that our current membership is doing and understands the need to stay competitive,” said Matchett.

The first annual wage increase will be two per cent in the first year, one and a half per cent in the second and third years and two per cent in year four. These increases will be applied on July 1 for each year of the agreement.

Matchett said one of the reasons for the pay bump is to increase retention in an increasingly competitive market for teachers.

Eighty-six per cent of NTA members voted in favor of this collective agreement.

New provisions in the collective agreement include a three-day Domestic Violence Leave, allowing for paid leave for employees who have to leave to attend appointments with professionals, legal proceedings or any other necessary activities to support health, safety or security.

“We have to recognize the rates of domestic violence here in Nunavut, how it affects our membership,” said Matchett, who adds though they hope members never have to use it, he’s glad it’s there.

Teachers who enter into Inuktut language instruction are also facing more immediate incentives to be hired into positions including curricular instruction in Inuktut, with level three Inuit language allowances to be provided immediately until teachers’ proficiency can be assessed.

“That was a top priority for us, to secure that and make the language allowances easily accessible. It’s always been there but it’s been a burden for our members to apply for and to build that. Now the government has agreed to that as an automatic bonus upon hiring,” said Matchett.

Nunavut education minister Pamela Gross said the pandemic has been tough on everyone and she hopes this new agreement will help Nunavut teachers who have gone above and beyond the last few years.

“These past few years has been strenuous on everyone across the world and we have hurdles and challenges. I think our teachers have gone the extra mile over the past few years to ensure they’re able to cope through the challenges we see in our territory,” said Gross.

Substitute teachers are paid on a scale based on their qualifications, unqualified subs will receive a pay increase to $175 per day, up from $150.

Also among the provisions is a new seasonal Inuit cultural leave which will be replacing the fishing, hunting and harvesting leave. It allows for one day of special leave and another without pay for a wider net of Inuit cultural activities in addition to harvesting. These include sewing, berry-picking, camping and whatever else is considered an Inuit cultural pursuit.

“It was a very underused provision we had, we were very excited to see the government saw the importance of expanding that,” said Matchett, “I think it’s exciting for our southern teachers who can now do something with a co-worker and not feel the financial burden while learning a cultural activity.”

Other provisions include an extended special leave of up to five days upon the death of an immdiate family member and a half-day leave to attend the funeral of an aunt or uncle.

Foster children are now also considered to be a part of someone’s immediate family.

Parental leave will also align with changes made to federal employment insurance, which will help employees to take extended leave and to receive the Parental Extended Benefit.

“We do hope this agreement goes that extra step to helping retain some of our membership. In my opinion we do have a ways to go in ensuring we recruit and maintain more teachers,” said Matchett.

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