Kindersley MLA Ken Francis visited the studio on Friday to discuss a few different topics on the Country 104 morning show.
Francis also took some time to provide comments on the recent news that the Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation and provincial government would be resuming negotiations on Monday. In January, a pair of protests were held outside of the local member's office in Kindersley.
Francis is happy to see things taking a step forward.
"It is nice to see that the STF is willing to come back to the bargaining table. It was kind of portrayed that the Government wasn't coming back, but really the bargaining committee is always at the table, and willing to talk even if positions haven't changed. But there is a new mandate from the Minister's office and cabinet that has directed the bargaining committee to look at a different type of offer including compensation."
Providing his perspective, Francis recognizes that there are problems that need solutions in Saskatchewan classrooms.
"Obviously there are issues in the classrooms, there is no refuting that, and we have never refuted that there are not issues within the classrooms across the province," he began. "One of the main issues is that those complexities and classroom size issues are specific to each division, and each school. Covering that in a collective agreement would be very difficult."
Francis talked about the school boards role when it comes to the STF's requests.
"If that is put to the STF in their contract, that removes the power that local school divisions have, elected school divisions I will add, on how they spend their funding. That is the major hiccup, is we don't want to see control, and autonomy taken away from the school board system, and put into the teacher's union." shared Francis. "We don't think that is fair for the elected school division boards, nor is it fair to the taxpayer to put it in the hands of one union, so that's kind of one of the major stumbling blocks that we see."
Francis then turned the conversation to another sticking point, salary, and how the STF is working to compare teacher's salaries to that of an elected member.
"The STF seemed to think that they would be willing to look at how MLA's are paid, in the same manner for their teachers. There is quite a bit of information that is conflicting. The STF was asking for 2% per year, plus the cost of living inflationary amount, which the consumer price index is tied to. That is how MLA's are reimbursed, that is how we would get a lift in MLA salary is based on the consumer price index."
For the last five to seven years, MLA salaries have increased between 1.5% to 2% using the CPI.
"There is no other structure than that. A new MLA makes the same as a 20-year MLA." he said, continuing on with some more insight. "Another point that is pretty important, there is information out there that we took a 6.8% lift last year tied to CPI. That was what it was supposed to be, and as a group through our board of internal economy, we refused to take that."
Instead, Francis described that they came up with a plan that would cap any MLA lift in a single year to 3%, and put a floor at 0%, so the CPI couldn't go negative.
"In any one single calendar year, an MLA will never see an increase of more than 3%. If you take the last six year average, it comes out to about 1.44% over that period of time."
An unbalanced budget in 2017 actually led to a decrease being taken, as all MLA's took a 3.5% cut.
"That was offered to all public employees, but only the MLA's took it, and their support staff. That was reinstated in 2018 when I got in, so I have included that in the numbers." said Francis. "I am not certain that the STF or their membership really fully understands the compensation calculations that go into MLA salaries, but it's certainly different than their structure is."
The negotiations will officially resume on Monday, February 12 in Saskatoon.