Saskatoon

Teachers ask courts to compel Sask. govt to appoint board

After eight months, teachers in Saskatchewan are now asking the courts to force the province to sign paperwork appointing five members to Educational Relations Board.

Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation accuses government of dragging its feet

'It's time now that we actually file an application and have the courts force them to conduct their responsibilities,' said Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation president Patrick Maze. (CBC)

All it would take are a few pen strokes, according to the Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation.

Instead, federation president Patrick Maze accused the government of dragging its feet on appointing five people to Saskatchewan's Educational Relations Board, which currently has no appointed members.

The STF has now asked the Court of Queen's Bench in Saskatoon to issue an order that would force the government to appoint members to that board, in an application for a writ from the court filed on Monday.

By law, the board has the authority to arbitrate disputes, settle grievances and authorize mediation in education contract disputes.

Maze said not having that board in place leaves teachers in a catch-22.

Nominees were submitted to province last winter

"We don't have any avenue with which, at the local level or the provincial level, to express disagreements outside of going to the exact government that may be the employer and that we might have the disagreement with,"  Maze told CBC News on Tuesday.

Government knows how to do this but for whatever reason they haven't.- Patrick Maze, STF president

In an email, officials at the Ministry of Education told CBC, "We are in the process of confirming appointments to the Educational Relations Board and expect this process to be completed shortly."

For decades, the board has consisted of five individuals appointed by a provincial order-in-council. The province has never refused to sign off on the nominees to date, said Shawn Davidson, president of the Saskatchewan School Boards Association (SSBA).

"I would say this is unusual, that we would have to wait this long for that official nomination," said Davidson. "It's important that this board be in place."

"It is unusual that it would take this long for an official appointment to take place," said Shawn Davidson, president of the Saskatchewan School Boards Association. (Saskatchewan School Boards Association)

In February, the STF nominated Shirley Humphries and Shelly Tootoosis to the board. Janet Kotylak and David Thompson were nominated by the SSBA in March.

Both teachers and school boards jointly nominated former Edwards School of Business dean Daphne Taras as the board chair.

"There have been over 400 order-in-council appointments since February," said Maze. "Government knows how to do this but for whatever reason they haven't."

Teachers have been without a contract since the end of August. Maze said those negotiations are ongoing. 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Jennifer Quesnel

CBC Saskatoon reporter

Since 2001, Jennifer Quesnel has reported on news and current affairs for both CBC Radio and CBC Television in Regina, Calgary, Quebec City and Saskatoon.

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