Saskatchewan teachers reject second contract offer

Watch above: for the second time, Saskatchewan teachers have rejected a contract offer

SASKATOON – Teachers in the province have rejected a tentative contract reached between its union, the Saskatchewan government and school trustees.

In results released by the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation (STF) on Monday, 63 per cent of the 13,236 who voted on June 5 rejected the deal reached between the parties on May 16.

“We are concerned that the agreement, which in our judgment was the best that could be reached at the bargaining table, was not acceptable to teachers,” said STF president Colin Keess.

“It is clear there is a disconnect between the STF Bargaining Committee and its members and we expect the STF will be in contact with us in the coming weeks,” said Connie Bailey, spokesperson for the government-trustee bargaining committee.

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The tentative agreement would have seen teachers receive a 7.3 per cent increase over four year along with a $700 pro-rated payment in the first year.

Bailey said the agreement would have seen teachers maintain a competitive edge in western Canada.

“The increases in this tentative agreement would have ensured teachers maintain a market competitive position within the Western Canadian Average in each year of their 4-year agreement,” said Bailey in a release.

“Teachers have told us the tentative agreement did not contain sufficient resources, nor provide enough evidence of the government’s commitment to re-engaging with teachers and solving the issues of importance to the profession,” said Keess.

Primary concerns for teachers is uncertainty of the school year, school day and workloads that they said arose from legislative changes in 2012.

“The enrollment rates across the province are up in the thousands and it’s a reflection of this province and it’s a reflection, I think too, of the school system in this province,” said Keess.

They also raised concerns over classroom composition and size.

“Teachers’ workloads have been untenable for some time, and they have yet to see tangible improvements in their work life despite more recent agreements and commitments,” said STF executive director Gwen Dueck.

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“Their continuing frustration is evident in the rejection of this tentative agreement.”

The government-trustee bargaining committee also expressed their frustration over the agreement being rejected.

It’s discouraging that a second tentative agreement, that all parties worked hard to negotiate, and agreed to, was rejected,” said Bailey.

“The government of Saskatchewan and the Saskatchewan school boards association have made a commitment to the teachers in this province to meet, to work on those relationships and those trust issues and to discuss those issues that are pertinent to both of us and to come together with a shared solution.”

The STF will be submitting an application for conciliation as a next step in the bargaining process.

“We’ve applied to the education relations board for conciliation, which is the next step in the process,” said Keess.

“We’ll just be waiting to see now if the education relations board accepts the petition to go into conciliation and always remember that at any time, we can return to the bargaining table.”

It’s the second time a deal has been rejected by teachers. In October, 73 per cent said no to a deal that would have given them a 5.5 per cent pay increase over four years.

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Teachers have been without a contract since their last deal expired on Aug. 31, 2013.