Saskatoon

Education minister 'very disappointed' about Sask. Teachers' Federation's sanction vote

A sanction vote set for Feb. 10 and 11 will determine what job action, if any, Saskatchewan teachers will take. On Friday in Saskatoon, Gordon Wyant criticized the STF for planning the vote so soon, rather than waiting for a report being compiled following a January meeting.

Gordon Wyant wants STF to take contract to its members for a vote

Education Minister Gordon Wyant said he wants the Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation to take the contact the Ministry of Education has put forward to union members for a vote before a sanction vote is taken. (Chanss Lagaden/CBC)

Saskatchewan Education Minister Gordon Wyant said he's "very disappointed" the Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation is taking a sanction vote that could see teachers walk off the job.

The vote, set to take place on Feb. 10 and 11, will determine what job action, if any, teachers will take, federation president Patrick Maze said earlier this week.

On Friday in Saskatoon, Wyant criticized the STF for planning the vote so soon, rather than waiting for a report that is being compiled after the two groups met for conciliation earlier in January.

"No one should be under any illusion that this is [not] a strike vote," he said.

"At the end of the day, I don't think anybody wants to see teachers on the picket line. I don't think parents want to see teachers on the picket line and I don't think it's good for students."

Saskatchewan's Education Ministry has said it won't discuss class size and composition at the bargaining table. Minister Wyant said previously the issue is "greater than the STF."

However, the province says it's committed to addressing the issue by forming a committee to examine classroom size and composition.

The province invited the STF to sit on the committee, but the federation refused, saying it feels the committee is "stacked" with government representatives.

Wyant said he wants the Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation to take the contact the Ministry of Education has put forward to union members for a vote before a sanction vote is taken.

"We'll be completely respective of the collective bargaining process and if the vote on the contract is no, then teachers have their options," he said.

"But we do think that teachers need to have a voice in their contract."

Wyant also said he feels the conciliation report is important as it will help guide the government, and he hopes teachers, with respect to future bargaining. 

The STF and the government-trustee bargaining committee, which represents the government and school boards in the province, reached an impasse in bargaining last November.

Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation president Patrick Maze says classroom size and composition are major issues the STF wants to see included in the collective bargaining agreement. (Don Somers/CBC)

Conciliation between the two groups took place in an attempt to move past the impasse, but the teachers federation said the government wasn't willing to negotiate class complexity or move from its original salary offer — both major issues for the STF.

Maze said nine months of negotiations and the conciliation have still not resulted in a deal that is acceptable for teachers in the province. He said it wouldn't make sense for the federation to wait for a report it already knows the content of. 

"We were there. We know that the process failed," said Maze, adding he feels the province did not show up with the resources necessary to fix issues in the classroom. "It seems strange that we delay for a report that is going to tell us something we've already experienced."

Wyant said the Ministry of Education has looked at the effect of having class sizes and composition in a collective bargaining agreements in other jurisdictions like B.C. where he says it's been a failure.

However, the ministry had not previously done any research on what it might mean for Saskatchewan, he said. That work is being done right now. 

Maze said the ministry hasn't been open to examining the possibility of including those issues in the collective bargaining agreement, despite the fact teachers have identified them as important.

"There's lots of models out there and it's really frustrating when you go to the table and just hear, 'No. We won't do it.'"

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 an annual two per cent salary increase over the next two years.

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

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

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