STF president says 'common ground' reached during meeting on teachers' contracts

Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation president Patrick Maze and Education Minister Gord Wyant say a meeting about teachers’ contracts was positive and the two sides plan on meeting again next week.

Teachers want to see class sizes and composition in collective bargaining agreements

Thomson Community School and Lakeview School in Regina are closed after confirming several cases of COVID-19. (David Donnelly/CBC)

Saskatchewan teachers, government and school board trustees appear to be a step closer to returning to the bargaining table.

On Tuesday, representatives from the parties met to discuss a potential path back to the table to continue negotiations.

The Saskatchewan Teachers Federation has been without a contract since August 2019 and they've been meeting with the government trustee bargaining committee, made up of school boards and government, for months trying to reach an agreement. 

However, in November 2019, the STF declared an impasse had been reached between the parties. They entered conciliation, which happened earlier this year, but those talks also broke down and the impasse was reaffirmed.

WATCH: STF president Patrick Maze spoke with media Tuesday morning:

Now, just a day after 90 per cent of teachers voted in favour of taking job action, it appears the groups are finding some common ground.

"I think everyone wants a solution that's in the best interest of students across Saskatchewan and we worked from that common goal," said STF president Patrick Maze, following Tuesday's meeting.

Maze said he could not go into detail about the talks, but classified them as positive and said the groups have "started working toward meeting in the middle."

The meeting comes after a conciliation report on negotiations declared that representatives from the Saskatchewan School Boards Association, the Government of Saskatchewan and the STF should meet to discuss the classroom composition. 

The STF says classroom composition is a major sticking point for the union, while Government and school boards feel the issue shouldn't be discussed around the bargaining table.

WATCH: Education Minister Gord Wyant spoke with media at noon CST on Tuesday:

Despite the impasse, Education Minister Gordon Wyant echoed Maze's remarks Tuesday, saying the fact representatives from the groups will meet again next week was a "positive outcome." 

"We had a back and forth conversation about how we felt the issues needed to be dealt with. Certainly, teachers have their perspective and so do we," Minister Wyant said.

"I honestly believe that after listening to the conversation this morning and participating in it, that there is a middle ground to be found between the two parties."

Wyant noted he was "a little bit surprised" so many teachers voted in favour of sanctions, but said the strong turnout and vote shows that teachers are concerned about things like classroom composition.

The province has formed a committee to examine classroom size and composition and has invited the STF to sit on the committee, but the federation has refused to participate. Maze says the STF feels the committee is "stacked" with government representatives.

Shawn Davidson, president of the Saskatchewan School Boards Association, was also present at Tuesday's meeting. He said the meeting was a step in the right direction, as conversation and dialogue is critical. 

"We, as an organization, firmly believe that the education sector is going to move forward when we all can cooperate," he said, saying the SSBA has always worked to cooperate with its education partners.

"Meetings like today are very helpful in establishing stronger relationships, in developing that co-operation and really when all of the heads are at the table we can certainly come up with more innovative solutions to some really difficult problems." 

Representatives from the three are set to meet again early next week.



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