After multiple picket lines, Government-Trustee Bargaining Committee (GTBC) extended an invitation to teachers to meet at the bargaining table on Monday to “either negotiate an extension of the current salary offer, or to negotiate a deal that would see teachers receive the same annual salary adjustments, under the same salary formula that MLAs receive,” according to the province.
Teachers and the provincial government have been butting heads over a new contract agreement, with one of the main sticking points being classroom size and complexity.
Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation and provincial government eager to negotiate new contract
“Should these negotiations fail, job action will resume,” said Saskatchewan Teachers Federation (STF) president Samantha Becotte.
While both sides recognize that classroom size and complexity are issues that need to be addressed, teachers would like those issues to be part of the bargaining process. However, the province refuses, saying those are issues better handled by local school boards.
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A Saskatchewan policy expert explained the scope of the issue on Monday and said it should be addressed collaboratively.
“It really has to do with the workload of the teacher, how many students there are in the classroom, but also who those students are and what their needs are,” said Michelle Prytula, associate professor at Johnson Shoyama School of Public Policy.
She said complexities can include students with more intensive needs and range from language needs to learning disability needs.
“We bring all students together so students can learn from one another, but it does create a very complex space and a very demanding space.”
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Prytula said that budget cuts, paired with increasing class sizes, can become unmanageable for teachers.
“Teachers are asked to do quite a lot with less.”
As of Wednesday, no information was provided by the STF or the government on classroom size and complexity as part of the announcement the two sides would be returning to the table.
“That is where the messaging is a little confusing,” said University of Saskatchewan associate professor of political studies Charles Smith.
He said it’s very possible that more strikes are on the horizon for Saskatchewan if both sides refuse to budge on their opinions regarding classroom sizes and complexity.
“What we have seen publicly is that there are some pretty clear lines in the sand,” Smith said. “It’s going to take some movement from one of the two sides to actually see a fruitful agreement get hammered out.
“Keep an eye on public opinion, whether it’s through polling or internal communications. I think that is going to be sort of the X factor in hammering out an agreement.”
— with files from Global News’ Andrew Benson
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