Sask. Teachers' Federation declares impasse in bargaining

After seven months of negotiations with the province, the Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation has declared an impasse in bargaining talks, and has applied for conciliation. 

Patrick Maze, president of the federation, said the government has not budged on the big three demands the STF is making: controlling class size and composition, salary, and giving contracts to substitute teachers so they can access benefits. 

The government recently announced a class size and composition committee that would operate outside the scope of the bargaining process. Maze maintains that he wants those issues to be resolved in the bargaining process, as doing so would give the union the ability to hold the government to an agreement.

"We don't have any faith in this committee that's been formed. I mean, assigning one parent to the committee just ... it doesn't make sense," he said.

"There are so many different student diversity issues that I don't know how one parent could possibly talk to every concern across the sector."

Education Minister Gord Wyant said he's not willing to budge on the notion of including class size and composition in bargaining with the union.

He argued having such policy in a collective agreement takes away the ability to be flexible and respond to individual situations.

"If you go to look at jurisdictions where class size and composition have been included in a collective agreement, quite frankly, it's a mess.… We're not prepared to introduce that kind of chaos into our collective agreement, or into our education system," he said.

"The suggestion that you just simply cap class sizes isn't responsive to the needs of the children in those classrooms, and it's not responsive to the educational deliverables that we want from our system."

Wyant said he was disappointed to hear the teachers federation would not be participating in the committee, saying he believes the voices of teachers are important.

Bowing to pressure

Maze said recent settlements between the government and other unions, like the ones representing Directwest and SecurTek employees, have no bearing on the STF negotiations.

"There's no pressure at all to settle," he said.

Maze said teachers are working harder and being pressured to handle different needs and huge class sizes. He said he expects the government to try to get ahead of these complaints by saying it is bringing more people into the province and promoting growth. Maze said these new residents can be harder to educate without adequate support.

"I think they're trying to balance their budget on our student's backs and we're not going to accept that," Maze said.

Maze wouldn't elaborate on what could come next, should the conciliation effort fail. He did say he hoped it wouldn't come to job action.