Teachers ask province to direct health-plan contributions to classrooms
Proposal could see an additional $42M flow into Saskatchewan schools
Saskatchewan teachers say they are willing to give up millions in health-plan contributions to ensure the province's schools and classrooms are better funded.
The Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation (STF) said it would be willing to consider a break from annual contributions to the teachers' health plan of roughly $21 million if it's matched by the provincial government for a total of $42 million.
A statement from the Ministry of Education said the government-trustee bargaining committee will be reviewing the proposal.
If implemented, the fund would be co-managed by the government and the STF.
The Government of Saskatchewan, under contract, is mandated to put 2.1 per cent of teachers' salaries into a health plan for teachers annually.
Health-plan reserves, which are used when there's an excessive amount of claims to ensure stability, have reached $80 million, said STF president Patrick Maze.
He says that amount is higher than what the government deems acceptable, so the government has advised the STF to use the reserve, or allow the government to take a one-year break from contributing.
Maze said the province proposed that teachers would get a one-time payment of $1,500 in the first year of a new contract on the condition they get to take a year off from contributing to the health plan.
"We have said no," said Maze. Instead, they proposed the co-managed fund.
"We want to make sure that our students are benefiting and make sure that our students are the ones who are experiencing the best learning conditions," Maze said.
"That's why we have insisted that if there is going to be a contribution holiday, that it will be directed towards the classroom and matched by government as well."
CBC Saskatoon requested an interview with a representative from the Ministry of Education, but a statement was provided instead.
In the statement, Education Minister Gordon Wyant thanked the teachers' bargaining committee for their proposal and said it would be discussed at the next round of talks Oct. 16 and 17.
The provincial bargaining committee has so far put forward an annual two per cent salary increase over the next two years.
The union is asking for a three-year agreement with a two per cent salary increase in 2019-20 and three per cent increases in each of the following two years.
The STF also wants smaller class sizes and a contract of employment for substitute teachers.
The two sides have been without a contract since it expired on Aug. 31, 2019.