Pandemic motivated teachers and Sask. government to reach deal, says STF president

The Saskatchewan government and the bargaining committee for the province’s teachers have reached a tentative contract agreement but it will not include a provision on class composition and size.

Teachers now need to vote on the four-year contract, which would see them get two per cent salary increases in the second, third and final year of the deal. The agreement, if ratified, is retroactive to September 2019. 

“While we had hoped to do a bit better, at the same point, we know that that the province is also facing uncertainty going forward and so that plays into our decisions as well,” said Patrick Maze, president of the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation.

Education Minister Gordon Wyant said in a news release that, by the end of the contract, the teachers will be paid five per cent more than the average pay in Western Canada. 

He said the contract balances appreciation for teachers and Saskatchewan’s “fiscal realities.” Saskatchewan is projecting a $1.2 billion deficit going into next year, due to the collapse of oil prices.

Maze said the province has also committed to revising its provincial bargaining committee. One member of the STF had been on the committee while the government had five representatives.

Maze said that structure was unfair. Two members of the STF will now be part of the committee and the government’s representation on the committee will decrease to two.

Other organizations will round out the committee, such as the Saskatchewan School Boards Association.

The Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation has been without a contract since August 2019. Maze described bargaining since then as “unprecedented” and filled with stress.

After an unsuccessful conciliation attempt, job sanctions were imposed in March. Work-to-rule job action saw teachers arrive 15 minutes before class started and leave 15 minutes after.

Then the pandemic hit.

Maze said he is not endorsing the tentative deal but said the teachers will decide if it is satisfactory.

“[We’re] hopeful that they’ll be able to find success in class composition,” Maze said.

“And if not, then I’m sure it will kind of rear its ugly head again and it’ll be on the next set of negotiations down the road.”

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