Further information is starting to surface regarding the ongoing dispute between the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation and its president, Colin Keess.
Documents obtained from a Saskatoon court by the CBC and other news agencies are casting new light on the cause of the rift between the STF and Keess that led to them stripping him of his administrative powers in August. In doing so, they also passed a non-confidence motion against the twice-elected president.
Keess decided to take the executive to court in an attempt to be reinstated.
The latest information coming from this case indicates the board carried out the action against Keess when they learned that in May of this year, Keess had approached John McGettigan, president of the Saskatoon Teachers’ Association with confidential information connected to collective bargaining negotiations that were going on between the STF and the Ministry of Education. McGettigan then informed senior officials within the STF about the meeting with Keess and the apparent disclosure of confidential information.
Teachers across the province have rejected two proposed contracts this year.
Keess, on the other hand, is claiming “slanderous accusations against me by Ms. Dueck (Gwen Dueck, the STF’s chief executive officer) and the intentional and malicious lack of due process and fair dealing from the executive.”
In launching his challenge in October, Keess, said that he had planned to deliver an evaluation of Dueck’s job and role as the STF’s executive director, but was prevented from doing so by the executive’s committee action. The letter, he stated, was a reprimand but that was cut short by the board’s Aug. 1 decision to strip him of his authority. He claimed in an affidavit filed with the Court of Queen’s Bench the STF had acted outside of its jurisdiction and had denied him the opportunity to speak on the issues.
None of the allegations have been proven in court and Keess’s case will be presented to the QB court on Jan. 15. He retains the title of president of the STF with full pay and benefits, but none of the authority to carry out the duties generally related to the presidency.
McGettigan’s affidavit said Keess informed him all proposed teacher salary increases were less than two per cent per year and that there was a split among the bargaining committee, and he was concerned that the teachers would ratify the tentative agreement that had been hammered out during the second round of negotiations.
Dueck noted in her affadivit that the disclosure occurred at a critical and sensitive point in the collective bargaining process with the government and school boards.
Keess is represented by laywer Rob Dobrohoczki who said his client does not recall disclosing any confidential information.
Affidavits from other STF executive members indicate that Keess was never authorized by them to review Dueck’s job performance.
Board member Murray Guest noted in his affidavit they voted in favour of stripping Keess of his duties to protect the federation from increasingly erratic and unpredictable behaviour.
Before being elected to the STF’s top job, Keess had been a senior educator at the Estevan Comprehensive School and a former principal of the school prior to a disciplinary hearing by the STF. That hearing and disciplinary action took place approximately 18 years ago.