Questions and Answers Regarding Conciliation
How did negotiations end up in conciliation?
The lack of engagement and movement by the Government-Trustee Bargaining Committee forced the Teachers’ Bargaining Committee to declare an impasse in negotiations. A meeting of the STF Executive was convened via conference call on November 13, 2019. The STF Executive approved the recommendation of the Teachers’ Bargaining Committee to apply for conciliation.
Negotiations between the Teachers’ Bargaining Committee and the Government-Trustee Bargaining Committee commenced on May 22, 2019. The Teachers’ Bargaining Committee tabled the Objectives For Teachers’ Provincial Collective Bargaining document on that day. The Government-Trustee Bargaining Committee tabled their proposals at the next day of negotiations. Throughout the 10 days of negotiations, the Teachers’ Bargaining Committee brought forth relevant, timely and accurate information and offered suggestions that would move the parties towards a negotiated settlement. The position of the Government-Trustee Bargaining Committee regarding class size and composition and contracts for substitute teachers was to move these issues outside of negotiations to external committees. The Government-Trustee Bargaining Committee also stated their salary proposal was not going to change.
What is conciliation and what is the conciliation process?
Conciliation is the legislated option for dispute resolution selected by the Teachers’ Bargaining Committee in advance of negotiations. Once an impasse is declared it must be exercised.
The conciliation process is led by a three-member conciliation board composed of a nominee from each party and an independent chairperson who is often a labour lawyer experienced in mediation and arbitration. The conciliation board, under the leadership of the chair, works to find common ground in order to support the parties in reaching a negotiated collective agreement.
How does conciliation unfold?
The timelines for the conciliation process are outlined in Section 254 of The Education Act, 1995. Once the chair of the Educational Relations Board establishes a conciliation board, the parties have seven days to name a nominee. Once both nominees are named, they have eight days to name a chairperson. Once the chairperson is named, the convening of the conciliation board is determined by the availability of the chair.
The chair is usually a labour lawyer experienced in mediation and arbitration and, as such, their services are often in demand so it is not uncommon for hearings to be delayed several weeks before the chair is available.
The Teachers’ Bargaining Committee is planning that conciliation, once initiated, will require four days of hearings. Following the hearings, the parties will wait for the conciliation board to prepare and share their report. The more complex the report, the longer it takes to complete.
What is a conciliation report?
The conciliation board will facilitate negotiations between the parties. When the conciliation process ends, the conciliation board will issue a report that may have one of the following outcomes:
- The report would be considered as a tentative agreement.
- The report would be utilized by the parties as they continue negotiations.
- The report would be brief and indicate that the conciliation process failed to result in resolution of the issues in dispute.
- The report would be binding on both parties and serve as the new agreement for those items that were in dispute. Both parties need to agree to make the report binding in advance of the report being written.
What happens if conciliation fails?
If conciliation fails, the Teachers’ Bargaining Committee would continue to try to negotiate with the Government-Trustee Bargaining Committee. At that point, it may be deemed necessary to conduct a sanctions vote. Teacher members would vote to provide the Teachers’ Bargaining Committee with the authority to impose sanctions, but it remains the responsibility of the Teachers’ Bargaining Committee to determine the type of sanction to be imposed and when those sanctions would be imposed.
Voting would occur through secret ballot and be administered by the school staff liaison in each school. The ballots would be sent to a third-party accounting firm to ensure the results are credible.
Sanctions are a strategic and powerful lever to be utilized to bring pressure on the Government-Trustee Bargaining Committee and government overall as the sole funder of education. Strong support from teachers sends a strong message to government to return to the negotiating table and work to achieve an agreement that is fair and reasonable.
Is conciliation the only path forward now?
No. The parties have the ability to return to the bargaining table at any time. However, the Teachers’ Bargaining Committee would need significant assurances that the position of the Government-Trustee Bargaining Committee has changed enough to warrant a return to the table. Without such assurances, the Teachers’ Bargaining Committee would focus their energy on preparing for conciliation.
What happened when teachers did not get to vote on the tentative agreement in 2013?
In that round of negotiations, the STF Executive authorized the Teachers’ Bargaining Committee to enter into an agreement based on the Terms of Settlement in the Conciliation Board Report. That report served as the 2013-2017 Provincial Collective Bargaining Agreement.
Why did the STF Executive authorize the Teachers’ Bargaining Committee to enter into the 2013-2017 agreement?
The STF Executive assessed the economic and political context and the likelihood of additional resources being made available by the provincial government. Another consideration was public statements made by members that teachers were averse to exercising the withdrawal of their service to secure a better agreement in this round of bargaining. After weighing the various options, the Executive strategically determined it was in the best interests of teachers to secure the resources leveraged by the conciliation process. The STF Executive then passed a motion authorizing the Teachers’ Bargaining Committee to agree to the conciliator’s recommended Terms of Settlement as the new collective agreement.
Is it possible that teachers may not get to vote on this agreement because of the conciliation process?
The STF Executive and staff have heard the voice of Saskatchewan teachers who expect to be provided with the opportunity to vote on any tentative agreement. The Teachers’ Bargaining Committee and the STF Executive fully intend to meet that expectation and provide a vote.
Since 1973, there have only been two instances where members did not get to vote on an agreement. One instance was in 2018 as a result of binding arbitration, and the second instance was in 2015 (see above question).
The legislation provides the Teachers’ Bargaining Committee with the authority to negotiate and sign an agreement on behalf of teachers in Saskatchewan. The historical and current preference of the Teachers’ Bargaining Committee and the STF Executive is that teachers be provided the opportunity to vote on the ratification of a tentative agreement.
Will the Conciliation Board Report be released?
Yes. Once conciliation is complete, a report will be prepared. Once received, it will be available on the Federation website.