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Teacher labour dispute looms as STF, government await vote results
REGINA -- The Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation is awaiting the results of a sanctions vote after talks with the provincial bargaining committee resulting in a deadlock.
STF president Patrick Maze says he expects voter turnout last Monday and Tuesday to be almost 100 per cent, which includes more than 13,000 members.
“This sanctions vote that teachers just took is really important. Teachers don’t take that lightly,” said Maze.
STF says the sanctions vote could result in job action, which could hopefully bring both sides back to bargaining. It could also lead to a full teacher walk out which can vary from rotating strikes, the withdrawal of voluntary services from teachers like afterschool coaching and sports activities or a work to rule situation.
STF also has concerns about class sizes and class composition and the two issues are impacting students right across the province.
“We are seeing a diversity of student needs. We want to be able to discuss those needs and make sure students are set up for success in the classroom and we’re not seeing that right now. This is a provincial issue. It’s right across the province. Teachers are telling us these issues need to be addressed,” added Maze.
Maze said the government’s bargaining committee has had no desire to include class size and composition in the negotiations and that it should be addressed at the local level with each board but Maze says the issue is a provincial matter and needs to be treated as such.
“Our teachers want to be in front of their students and they want to be offering all of the volunteer work that they do in sports and extracurricular and they want to be in front of students in the classroom but they know that the current situation in classrooms across the province is not sustainable,” said Maze.
The sanction vote comes after a four-day conciliation process the STF called a failure. Maze said that his members have been clear since bargaining for a new contract began in August, 2019 that class sizes and composition and salary remain the most important issues. Maze says the government’s current salary offer has been deemed lower than the cost of living by teachers.
“We remain open to bargaining. We feel that we have had some fruitful bargaining and made great strides and we ask that regardless of the outcome of the vote that STF will come back to the bargaining table,” said Premier Scott Moe.
Moe says he does not want to see a strike. He plans on waiting for the results but he also talked about how STF has walked away numerous times from the bargaining table.
“We have never felt comfortable that this is the time for STF to go the teachers and ask for a strike vote and that’s what this is. This is a vote for the STF to take teachers out of the classroom and put them on the picket line. We don’t agree that this is a way for STF to move forward,” said Moe.
Maze said the teachers are looking for an eight per cent salary increase over three years, while the province proposed a four per cent salary increase over the same timeframe.
The results of the sanctions vote will be released by the end of February.