Sask. Teachers’ Federation rejects offer, calls vote a ‘reset’ in contract talks

Click to play video: 'Sask. Teachers’ Federation rejects offer, calls vote a ‘reset’ in contract talks'
Sask. Teachers’ Federation rejects offer, calls vote a ‘reset’ in contract talks
WATCH: An overwhelming number of teachers chose to reject a final bargaining offer from the province this week. Gates Guarin brings us the reaction from both sides and what next steps could look like. – May 10, 2024

The Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation said Friday that it is looking at restarting the bargaining process after members voted to reject the province’s final contract offer this week.

The STF said 90 per cent of voters opposed the offer put forward by the Government-Trustee Bargaining Committee (GTBC), with 92.2 per cent of union members casting their vote on Wednesday and Thursday.

Click to play video: 'Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation rejects final offer from province'
Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation rejects final offer from province

This was first time Saskatchewan teachers voted on a tentative agreement since declaring negotiations had reached an impasse in October 2023. The teachers started job action in January.

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STF president Samantha Becotte said she sees the rejected vote as a “reset” in the bargaining process, a chance to start over. She also said binding arbitration is an option to resolve the dispute.

“It would provide a fair, judicial path forward that would look at both sides’ arguments and come with a decision on how we can resolve this dispute one way or another,” Becotte said.

She said the vote tells students, families and the Teachers’ Bargaining Committee that teachers are  committed to securing a sustainable future for publicly funded schools and for the supports students need in classrooms.

The three-year agreement offered by the province included salary increases of three per cent in year one, three per cent in year two and two per cent in year three, with retroactive pay to September 2023. It also made reference to an accountability framework outlined in a memorandum of understanding on classroom supports.

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The province called the agreement its “final offer.”

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Becotte said the government needs to provide a new mandate that includes classroom complexity and invited the Government-Trustee Bargaining Committee to return to the negotiating table on May 13-14.

“We know we aren’t going to solve everything with classroom complexity in one round, but we will continue to advocate for improvements in the years to come,” she said.

Becotte said teachers will not restart job action if there is a commitment from the government to return to the bargaining table.

Education Minister Jeremy Cockrill called the result of the vote disappointing and said he thinks the government has proved its dedication to education through its most recent budget promises and the multi-year funding agreement.

“The government fully intends to honour those agreements, we put that sentence in the contract,” he said Friday.

Cockrill also said the government hopes to head back to the table for “productive” conversations with the teachers’ union, leaving some Saskatchewan parents confused.

In April, Cockrill said the school could be extended if the teachers rejected the province’s contract and take further job action.

He echoed his statement on Wednesday.

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“The reality is, even though there have been work-to-rule sanctions, instructional time has been affected in several divisions and there is going to be several divisions that won’t hit the 950 hours that are required under legislation,” Cockrill said.

Click to play video: 'Future of Saskatchewan school year in province’s hands: STF president'
Future of Saskatchewan school year in province’s hands: STF president

Later on Friday, the STF announced teachers will be voting on a new mandate that would allow the union to implement sanctions beyond the current school year, given that the existing mandate expires on June 30.

A release from the STF said it must prepare for the possibility that bargaining could continue into next school year.

Again, the STF reiterated that no new sanctions will be imposed while discussions with the province are in progress.

Teachers will vote on the sanctions mandate on Wednesday and Thursday next week. The mandate would be in effect until an agreement is reached between the two parties.

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The province has not said whether or not they will return to the bargaining table on May 13-14.

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