The Saskatchewan government says it is tabling what it is calling a “fair deal for teachers,” though it doesn’t address calls to handle class size and composition at the bargaining table.
Negotiations between the province and the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation (STF) on a new contract resumed Tuesday after talks scheduled for the end of August were postponed.
The Government Trustee Bargaining Committee (GTBC) said it tabled a new three-year offer that includes a one-time payment of $1,500 in the first year for all full-time teachers, and two per cent wage increases in each of the second and third years of the contract.
“We think the offer is fair, we think it’s respectful of teachers, having regard to the fact we also have a responsibility to the taxpayer,” said Education Minister Gordon Wyant.
According to Saskatchewan government figures, the deal would see the province’s educators make slightly more than the average salary for teachers in Western Canada.
STF president Patrick Maze said “it’s very telling” that the bargaining committee hasn’t addressed class size and composition. The federation president said at this point, he wouldn’t present members with a deal that doesn’t include a “sustainable formula” to deal with the issue.
In a recent survey of its members, the STF said half of the respondents said class size and composition were more important issues than teacher salary, according to Maze.
“It’s difficult to put a price on feeling job satisfaction … and that’s why many teachers go into the work is to make a difference and they don’t feel like they’re doing that right now,” Maze said.
Maze also disagreed with Wyant’s perspective that classroom population and diversity can only be dealt with at the school division level.
“Both sides can negotiate whatever they decide to negotiate at the bargaining table,” Maze said.
Wyant said the Education Act hasn’t had a “substantial overhaul” in nearly 40 years. Conversations around classroom dynamics would be more appropriate during such a process rather than bargaining, according to the education minister.
The last contract expired Aug. 31, 2019. It covered the 2017-18 and 2018-19 school years, with a one per cent pay increase for roughly 13,500 educators.
The STF said before talks started that it was looking for an eight per cent raise over three years: two per cent in 2019-20, three per cent in 2020-21 and three per cent in 2021-22.
Under the government’s proposal, full-time teachers would receive the $1,500 one-time payment if the agreement was ratified. Teachers working less than full-time would receive a pro-rated amount.
The province said the funds, roughly $18-million, would be repurposed from the annual $22-million government-funded contribution to the extended health plan.
Officials said this would bring the health plan surplus closer to industry standards while not reducing existing benefits.
–With files from David Baxter