Teachers’ contract talks back on as province fills board vacancies
The president of the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation (STF) says the organization is anxious to get back to the negotiating table after a short suspension in contract talks between teachers, school boards and the provincial government.
On Wednesday morning, the STF, which represents about 13,000 teachers in the province, announced it would suspend negotiations because the government had failed to appoint any of its members to the Educational Relations Board, the body that oversees the implementation of collective agreements in the education sector.
The board is supposed to be made up of two teachers nominated by the STF and two members representing school boards, as well as a chairperson nominated by the majority of board members. All board spots remained vacant on Wednesday morning due to a lack of appointments, although the STF provided its selections months ago.
STF president Patrick Maze said the organization suspended talks in an effort to get the government to take action on the appointments. Later on Wednesday, he said the STF is “excited that we can get back to bargaining.”
A statement from Education Minister Bronwyn Eyre said the appointments were made following a cabinet meeting on Wednesday, just hours after the STF announced it would walk away from negotiations.
Maze said he spoke to Eyre on Wednesday afternoon and felt the government came to the right conclusion in making the appointments. He said he expects negotiations will continue “in the very near future.”
“I don’t think it’s tarnished the reputation or the relationship at all,” he said. “It’s important that both sides be assertive when necessary, and that’s part of any relationship. At times, one party has to exert themselves a little bit more and make sure that they’re being heard.”
At the same time, the STF, Saskatchewan’s school boards and the ministry are “partners in education” and want what’s best for students, he said.
A court order filed at Saskatoon’s Court of Queen Bench that would have compelled the government to make the appointments will also be withdrawn, Maze said.
In the statement sent to media, Eyre thanked the Saskatchewan School Boards Association and the STF for their “patience and understanding during this process.”
The statement noted the government “looks forward to working with the our partners in the future.”
Saskatchewan teachers’ collective bargaining agreement expired Aug. 31.
Contract negotiations are confidential.