Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation President Pat Maze.
BRANDON HARDER / Regina Leader-Post
Saskatchewan teachers are expected to ask for a raise and a method for determining the “appropriate” class size and composition when bargaining for their new collective agreement gets underway next week.The Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation, which represents the province’s 13,500 teachers and whose current contract expires at the end of August, is seeking a two per cent raise next year followed by three per cent salary hikes over each of the following years.The STF is preparing to once again ask the government-trustee bargaining committee for what would be a first in Saskatchewan — a “methodology to ensure classes are the appropriate size and have the appropriate resources.”The teachers’ union is also expected to ask the government to append an employment contract entitling substitute teachers to benefits to a three-year collective agreement. That would also be a first, as substitutes are not covered by the current agreement.In an interview on Thursday, STF President Pat Maze described the proposed salary increase as “reasonable” because it keeps pace with inflation. Teachers’ current wage scale starts at $46,263 and tops out at $95,208 after ten years’ service.While the arbitrator last fall rejected a similar proposal to enshrine class size and composition in teachers’ collective agreement, Maze said the unusual — though not unprecedented in Canada — step is more necessary now than ever.“We always take a bargaining survey of our (13,500) members, and this is the first year that salary wasn’t far and away the top concern. It was virtually tied with class size and class composition,” Maze said.“Nobody really seems to be speaking out for the interests of children and the protection of that learning environment in our schools, and so we want to make sure that is kind of front and centre,” he added.The STF negotiates its contracts with the government-trustee bargaining committee (GTBC), which is made up of government representatives and four representatives from the Saskatchewan School Boards Association (SSBA).GTBC Chair Don Hoium said he looks forward to the parties’ first bargaining session, and that “traditionally, we haven’t bargained through the media … We want to honour the bargaining process and have our discussions at the table.”The SSBA declined to comment. The provincial government did not make Education Minister Gord Wyant available for an interview, but issued a prepared statement on his behalf that said he was “disappointed” the STF’s proposal became public before talks began.Bargaining is set to begin Wednesday amid fractious relations between teachers and the government. The arbitration board that resolved the last teachers’ contract noted in its decision that the relationship is “badly in need of repair.”The strained relations are largely a result of disagreement over money. The province slashed $54 million from its roughly $1.9-billion education budget two years ago before restoring $30 million in 2018-19 and an additional $26 million this year.The STF and the SSBA have said the decision to effectively maintain education funding at 2016-17 levels equates to a cut, as inflationary and enrolment pressures have left Saskatchewan’s 27 school boards facing a roughly $25 million shortfall this year.Wyant told the Saskatoon StarPhoenix in March that it was “a little unfair” to suggest the government hasn’t made progress toward mending fences with teachers since he took over the file, and suggested the restoration of $30 million was an indicator of future performance.It is not clear what the STF’s proposals would cost Saskatchewan taxpayers. Maze said a one per cent salary increase costs about $10 million, and acknowledged that controlling class size and composition would run into the millions of dollars.“What is the cost to society of not doing this?” he email@example.com/macphersonaRelated