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Wednesday, 01 June 2011 14:52

Mediator appointed to help with teacher contract dispute

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By Chris Jaster — This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Any concerns of the school year ending prematurely came to an end May 31.

The Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation announced it would stop any sanctions after agreeing to let a mediator try to find common ground in its labour dispute with the government.

Saskatchewan teachers went on strike May 25 and 26. They were invited back to the bargaining table May 26 and accepted the offer after announcing teachers would withdraw all voluntary services starting May 30.

Those voluntary services were restored June 1 and the STF has agreed it won’t take any more job action during the mediation process, which could last until the end of June.

“The good thing, for the sake of students, is the teachers have agreed in writing that they will take no further job action while this process is underway,” said Don Morgan, the Minister of Justice and Minister of Labour Relations and Workplace Safety. “That means that for the rest of this school year it will be business as usual. Teachers will continue their professional and their voluntary duties so all the graduations and everything else will continue.”

As part of the agreement to have an independent mediator look at the dispute, the government has withdrawn all attack advertisements on the teachers.

Although the Teachers’ Bargaining Committee and Government-Trustee Bargaining Committee agreed on a new method to resolve their dispute, Gwen Dueck was not impressed with what the government brought to the table last weekend.

Dueck, the spokesperson for the Teachers’ Bargaining Committee, was hoping the government would come closer to what teachers are looking for — a 16.5 per cent increase in wages over three years.

The Government-Trustee Bargaining Committee, which was offering six per cent over three years prior to that meeting, promised to bring more resources to the table, but it wasn’t enough to impress Dueck.

“We went into it with some degree of optimism that the government would bring some sufficient resources to conclude an agreement,” she said. “That clearly did not happen, so we again indicated to the Government-Trustee Bargaining Committee that they needed to either bring resources or work with us in terms of a pathway forward.”

The government recommended bringing in Richard Hornung, a former Yorkton lawyer who now lives in Calgary and has chaired a number of labour relations boards, as the mediator and the teachers agreed.

Hornung will now have until June 10 to meet with both sides to find common issues.

If a resolution is not reached by June 10, he will file a report to the government that will recommend ways to settle the issue.

Hornung’s recommendations will not be binding. Dueck, however, hopes the government will take them seriously.

“We trust the government will act on those (recommendations) and that, in a sense, will take us to where we want to go,” she said.

Morgan, whose ministry was brought into the picture to recommend a mediator, expects both sides will be respectful of the mediation process.

Like Dueck, he is also hoping the mediation will lead to a new agreement at the bargaining table.

“The message we want to get to teachers and the bargaining committees are we think the best deals are the ones that are negotiated,” said Morgan.

“We strongly encourage both sides to use this as an opportunity to work and find common ground hopefully to resolve it.”

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