Saskatchewan

Sask. teachers vote in favour of job action mandate

The Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation announced the results of the recent sanctions vote this morning.

Vote gives bargaining committee authority to implement job action if negotiations fall through

The two sides have been working on a new contract for at least nine months. They declared an impasse in November. (Brenna Owen/CBC)

Teachers have voted in favour of taking job action if negotiations with the government fall through.

The Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation (STF) announced the results of the recent sanctions vote this morning at 10 a.m. CST at a news conference.

The STF said 90 per cent of members voted in support of sanctions, with a voter turnout of 96 per cent.

The vote gives the teachers' bargaining committee the authority to implement job action, but it is not bound to do so.

"Even though we have a very strong mandate from teachers to conduct sanctions, it's still our last resort," said Patrick Maze, president of the Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation. "We'd prefer if the government come honestly to the table and negotiate in good faith."

The STF is scheduled to meet with Education Minister Gord Wyant and the Saskatchewan School Boards Association Tuesday. Maze said the timeline for any job action will depend on how the talks with the government go. 

Job action could result in a full-scale strike. Other measures could include rotating strikes and cutting voluntary extracurricular activities such as coaching students on sports teams.

There would be 48 hours notice of any severe actions like a walkout, Maze said.

"We want to ensure that parents are prepared and we want to ensure school divisions themselves have contingency plans."

Government response

Wyant was not made available to the media on Monday but his deputy minister responded to the STF sanction vote.

"The results of the sanctions vote do not change the approach to bargaining – the government will continue to bargain in good faith," Rob Currie, deputy minister for education, said in a statement.

"The [government] has invited the [teachers] back to the bargaining table and the goal remains to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement for teachers."

The Regina Catholic School Division requested the Regina Catholic Teachers' Association give 72 hours notice of any job action.

Classroom size and composition a sticking point

The STF, which represents more than 13,000 teachers in the province, has been without a contract since Aug. 31, 2019.

Classroom size and composition have been sticking points in talks between the Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation and the government.

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.

A report by a Saskatchewan conciliation board said that even though there has been no compromise, these are negotiable matters and the parties should still meet to discuss them.

NDP education critic Carla Beck said the results of the vote "delivered a strong message" to Minister Wyant that teachers want to see the issues of class size and composition addressed.

"No one wants a strike. That is very clear. But that said, these issues have been raised time and time again … and I hope the minister understands the ball is in his court now to show some leadership and avert further actions."

Negotiations ongoing since mid-2019

The two sides have been working on a new contract for at least nine months. They declared an impasse in November, prior to meeting the board.

In its offer, the provincial bargaining committee put forward a three-year deal that would see teachers get a one-time $1,500 payment per full-time teacher in 2019-20 and a two per cent salary increase in each of the next two years.

The union is asking for smaller class sizes, a three-year agreement with salary increases of two per cent in 2019-20, three per cent in 2020-21 and three per cent in 2021-22, and a contract of employment for substitute teachers.

The last time there was a sanctions vote was in 2011 when the province's teachers went on strike for a day. A week later, the teachers took job action again and went on strike for two days.

The vote gives bargaining committee authority to take job action until a new provincial collective agreement is ratified. 

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