Following a vote overwhelmingly in favour of potential job action, both the education minister and Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation (STF) say they feel much more optimistic about strained contract negotiations.
Classroom size and composition are central issues in negotiations. The STF wants these topics included in the collective bargaining process, while Education Minister Gordon Wyant is steadfast on keeping this out of bargaining.
Monday, the STF released the results of their sanctions vote. Ninety per cent of the vote was in favour of exploring some type of job action. This could include everything from cancelling extracurricular activities to walk-outs.
STF President Patrick Maze, Wyant and Saskatchewan School Board Association leadership met Tuesday morning in Regina to discuss the issues.
“We’re pleased to report that we were able to find some common ground and have a commitment to meet again in the next couple weeks,” Maze said.
“While I can’t get into the details at this time, I think everybody wants a solution that’s in the best interest of the students across Saskatchewan.”
Wyant said the issues are important and need to be addressed.
“To the extent that we haven’t come up with any concrete solutions to anything. I think the fact that we’re continuing conversations is a pretty positive result of today’s meeting,” Wyant said.
Maze said the result of the sanctions vote “crystallizes” the desire of teachers to see increased support in classrooms across the province. Class composition was the main issue discussed Tuesday, according to Maze.
“I’m quite confident that we can move the conversation forward in a positive way that’s to the benefit of teachers, to the benefit of the government, and most importantly to the benefit of children and the classrooms,” Wyant said.
The minister said he believes the STF does not want to engage in job action, instead using the vote to move conversations forward.
“The ministry obviously accepts that there’s work that has to be done in our classrooms. It’s just a case of what that fix looks like and how that fix is acceptable to all different parties at the table,” Maze said.
Wyant launched a committee to come up with solutions for class size and composition in the fall. The STF was offered a seat at the table but rejected the offer as the organization wanted these topics included in collective bargaining.
The minister said he expects to hear preliminary recommendations from the committee when the provincial budget is unveiled on March 18.
The parties are expected to meet again next week, but a date is still being worked out. Wyant said he wants the meeting to happen as soon as possible.
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