The Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation and the Government of Saskatchewan are in the middle of collective bargaining discussions, with some of that discussion leaking out to the public.
Andrew Stevens is an associate professor at University of Regina in the Faculty of Business and Administration with a focus on labour and industrial relations and said public sector collective bargaining across Canada is often political in nature, especially when it comes to teachers and negotiations with teachers’ unions.
“I think for a long time in Saskatchewan it’s been a pretty quiet affair that’s been changing, and I think COVID-19 has really brought out a bit more energy in the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation and the teachers’ ranks in terms of the kind of political engagement that they want to see and the issues that they want to raise,” Stevens said.
STF President Samantha Becotte said back on July 21 that attempts to negotiate regarding violence in the classrooms and class size and complexity have been hitting a wall, adding they’ve had trustees acknowledge that the complexity of classrooms has increased, but didn’t feel it was a bargaining issue.
Billboards started popping up across the province from the provincial government titled, “A Fair Deal for Teachers.”
The billboards said teachers would see a “7 per cent salary increase” in big, bold lettering, with “over three years” being written in much smaller lettering underneath.
The billboard also claimed that average teachers salaries as of 2022 had Western Canada teachers making $90.3 thousand, and Saskatchewan teachers making $92 thousand.
Stevens said these kinds of steps shouldn’t be surprising, saying he sees the billboard as an attempt to simplify the collective bargaining process and what the teachers are asking for, but also to polarize the public.
He added attempts from teachers to try and get parents and families to support them and write to their MLAs might be hindered from seeing what he calls a “very simplified and convenient number.”
He said the Sask. Party government is looking to pivot the conversation to what teachers are making, rather than the quality of education, support in classrooms, and the working conditions teachers are facing.
Stevens said most of these discussions around collective bargaining happen behind closed doors, but said there was likely some consensus between both parties to do some negotiations in the public eye.
He said things like the billboard could undermine the efforts of the STF, but it shouldn’t come as a surprise that the government is trying to do some of its own public outreach.
“Whether it’s right or wrong is another question. It could certainly compromise the relationship, but again, in public sector negotiations these kinds of tactics are not uncommon.”
Documentation from the Provincial Collective Bargaining Agreement 2019-2023 shows that if a teacher hits step 11 and gets their class 4 then they could hit that $92,000 mark, but that was not the starting rate.
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Salaries of Teachers
Teacher Classification in Saskatchewan
“That $92,000 mark, you need to have a Bachelor of Education degree and over 10 years of experience in order to get to that point in your salary,” Becotte explained.
“This government is cherry-picking the data they are using to mislead and present an inaccurate position.”
The Ministry of Education sent a statement regarding the billboard on Thursday.
“The Government-Trustee Bargaining Committee’s proposed offer of 7 per cent over three years is a fair deal that recognizes the important work of Saskatchewan teachers. Saskatchewan teachers earn salaries above the average for teachers in western Canada, all while maintaining very competitive benefits including pension plan contributions, medical and dental plans, and sick leave provisions,” read the statement.
It said that the public information campaign will run in digital and static formats across the province.
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