Saskatchewan teachers vote 90 per cent in favour of job action

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Saskatchewan teachers vote 90 per cent in favour of job action
WATCH: Saskatchewan teachers voted more than 90 per cent in favour of job action as their union and the province struggle to come to an agreement on a new contract – Feb 24, 2020

Teachers in Saskatchewan have voted for job action after contract talks with the province reached an impasse.

The Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation (STF) said 90.2 per cent voted in favour of sanctions following voting on Feb. 10 and 11.

While no job action has been announced, the STF said it could take a variety of forms, from withdrawing teacher’s volunteer time for extracurricular activities to a full-scale strike.

“We know it creates uncertainty for students, parents and teachers alike,” STF president Patrick Maze said Monday in a statement.

“Teachers want to be in the classroom with their students; however, they know students are not getting what they need and are determined to use the tools at their disposal to ensure resources are available. That’s what students and parents want, too.”

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Saskatchewan’s deputy education minister said the results of this vote won’t change the approach the province takes at the negotiating table.

“The [government’s bargaining committee[ has invited the [teachers bargaining committee] back to the bargaining table and the goal remains to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement for teachers,” Rob Currie said in a statement.

STF, which represents 13,500 teachers, said it needs to give 48 hours notification before commencing any major job action.

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The STF said an impasse was reached in negotiations over class size and composition, adding it needs to be part of the contract talks.

The government said the issue should not be discussed at the bargaining table.

The parties met with a Conciliation Board in January in an effort to find common ground to move the talks forward.

The STF said no progress was made over the four-days spent in conciliation, leading to the sanctions vote.

In a report released on Feb. 13, the board said class size and composition should not be part of the current contract negotiations.

Education Minister Gordon Wyant has struck a task force to look into the issue. The STF was offered a seat on the committee but refused to take part.

Maze said there’s nothing preventing the government from bargaining the issue, “other than a lack of political will.”

“Saskatchewan teachers have demonstrated their collective resolve and commitment to ensure students have access to the supports they need. Chronic underfunding has created a crisis in Saskatchewan schools that can’t go on any longer.”

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The Conciliation Board recommended the STF, Wyant and the Saskatchewan School Boards Association meet within four weeks of the release of its report to discuss steps to immediately “support students and teachers in the classroom.”

Maze said the meeting is taking place on Feb. 25.

The board also recommended salary increases of five per cent over three years — one per cent in the first year and two per cent in each of the next two years — saying it falls in line with recent Saskatchewan public wage settlements.

Teachers are seeking increases of eight per cent over three years — two per cent, three per cent and three per cent.

The government offered a one-time payment of $1,500 in the first year funded from the teacher’s health plan followed by two per cent increases in 2021 and 2022.

None of the Conciliation Board recommendations are binding.

This is the fourth time the union has taken a job-sanction vote since 2000.

In all of those votes, more than 90 per cent of teachers voted in favour of action.

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The NDP’s education critic said her party has brought forward the issue of understaffing and education cuts.

“This vote shows how little teachers trust that the Minister will fix these issues through a side-table committee. For the sake of our kids’ education, the Sask. Party needs to get to work to address the concerns of teachers, parents and students,” Carla Beck said.

She added the NDP is committing to hiring enough teachers and educational assistants so all K-3 classrooms have a maximum of 24 students.

The latest STF contract expired on Aug. 31, 2019.

— Kyle Benning contributed to this report

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