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Sask. teacher sanctions to lift Friday as union heads back to bargaining table

Click to play video: 'Sask. teacher sanctions to lift Friday as bargaining resumes'
Sask. teacher sanctions to lift Friday as bargaining resumes
WATCH: Movement back to the table for teachers and the province as negotiations for a new deal are set to start again. As Erik Bay tells us, the two sides put forward an optimistic face today after a week of job action. – Apr 12, 2024

The Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation (STF) said on Friday that talks with the Government-Trustee Bargaining Committee (GTBC) are set to resume next week.

The federation said all sanctions involved in the work action will be lifted Friday at 11:59 p.m. with talks resuming on Tuesday, adding that no additional sanctions will take place during bargaining.

“I do think that we are closer to an agreement on all of the topics than we have been in the past,” STF president Samantha Becotte said on Friday.

Click to play video: 'Saskatchewan teachers will work-to-rule as talks with province hit another snag'
Saskatchewan teachers will work-to-rule as talks with province hit another snag

Saskatchewan teachers have been under a work-to-rule model since Monday, which had educators at schools only 15 minutes before and after work and stripped them of participating in all voluntary actions including noon-hour supervision and extracurriculars.

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They began using sanctions as a tool in their bargaining in January, cancelling class trips and sporting events and participating in rotating strikes.

“We have been assured that the Government-Trustee Bargaining Committee has a new mandate to properly address all of the issues important to teachers,” Becotte said. “The Teachers’ Bargaining Committee believes this commitment by the government is a positive step.”

Teachers have been pushing for increased funding to address class size, as well as classroom complexity in a new collective agreement.

“We have been clear throughout, we are not going to be including class size and complexity in the contract but what we are willing to include is having some wording around teacher voice,” Education Minister Jeremy Cockrill said on Friday.

He said that means making sure teachers have a voice on where dollars are allocated in their local schools and divisions.

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Becotte said new language for the proposed memorandum of understanding and the multi-year funding agreement will help address class size and complexity.

“I think that through those, classroom size and complexity will be addressed, that we will see improved supports to our students across the province,” she said.

The STF requested this month that one line be added to the collective agreement to make its promises binding, asking the government that the parties agree that the multi-year funding agreement and the accountability framework will be followed and honoured.

The line was previously denied by the government, prompting the most recent work-to-rule action from teachers.

However, Becotte said that the current offer to return to the table was brought forward by the Ministry of Education and that there has been a “change in tone” in the conversations.

“There is a recognition that we need to work together to find those solutions for everyone,” Becotte said. “Whether it was sanctions or conversations or a renewed commitment from the minister and the ministry to engage in addressing teachers’ concerns, I’m happy to say that we are at a place that is really good right now.”

Click to play video: 'How Sask parents are coping with noon supervision withdrawn in schools'
How Sask parents are coping with noon supervision withdrawn in schools

Cockrill said he feels more optimistic moving forward, adding that he feels a shift in the conversation.

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“It hasn’t always felt like we are working in the same direction and really at the end of the day that’s what this is about. It’s about kids.”

He said getting an agreement done will help them get back to what is important.

“The latest sanctions were disrupting instructional time in many divisions,” Cockrill added. “As minister, I have to make sure our kids are getting the best possible education, sufficient education every year.”

— With files from Global News’ Andrew Benson and Brody Langager. 

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