STF and gov’t back at the table

After a week of work to rule action, teachers across Saskatchewan are resuming their usual duties on Tuesday, April 16. The Saskatchewan Teacher’s Federation announced Friday afternoon that they will return to the bargaining table with the goal of a new provincial collective agreement.

The action meant no noon-hour supervision at schools, plus saw teachers arrive 15 minutes before their workday began and leave 15 minutes after the school day ended.

“To assist in maintaining noon hour supervision we are asking any parents who can have their children go home for lunch to do so,” said Keith Keating, Director of Education with the South East Cornerstone Public School Division in a letter to parents and caregivers of students after the sanctions were first announced. “In addition, if you can assist with noon hour supervision, please contact your local school.”

The action left schools scrambling to fill those extra-curricular roles taken on by teachers, with many questioning what happens to graduation planning and breakfast programs, for example.

However, a bright light emerged on Friday with the announcement that sanctions would be lifted effective 11:59 p.m. on April 12.

Over the last couple of weeks, there has been discussion around the memorandum of understanding and accountability framework between the STF and Ministry of Education.

“Through those discussion Im pleased to say that we have been able to make sufficient progress on the language within the MOU and the collective agreement,” said STF President Samantha Becotte.

“We have been assured that the Government-Trustee Bargaining Committee has a new mandate to properly address all of the issues important to teachers. The Teachers’ Bargaining Committee believes this commitment by government is a positive step,” continued Becotte. “Teachers have maintained that accountability measures must accompany government funding in order to ensure resources go to support students and improve their learning experience. We are optimistic that this understanding represents a significant step forward in negotiations and brings a tentative agreement within reach.”

In an interview with the World-Spectator a day prior to the announcement, Becotte hinted that talks may resume in short order.

“I do think that we’re kind of inching our way forward and we are making progress. Like I said, I do hope that we’re able to get back sooner rather than later, but we’ve had the rug pulled out from under us before and so we’re cautiously in some of those hopes, but I hope we stay on the right track here,” she said.

Education Minister Jeremy Cockrill also stressed that whatever happens at the bargaining table, a solution needs to be fair for everyone.

“A fair deal for teachers must also be a fair deal for Saskatchewan taxpayers,” he said. “The GTBC remains at the table, ready to reach a deal on behalf of students, teachers and families.”

“Government and school divisions have found solutions to assure increased investment into classrooms, multi-year predictability for those investments, as well as a framework that would allow teachers to provide feedback on how those dollars are spent in their local school division,” Cockrill continued.

Becotte acknowledged the Education Minister’s effort and is eager to walk the path forward.

“We appreciate the effort made by Minister Cockrill to work with the STF in order to facilitate a return to the bargaining table,” Becotte says. “The Teachers’ Bargaining Committee is hopeful that quick progress can be made on the remaining issues and we can reach a tentative agreement to bring to our members for ratification.”

Ryan Kiedrowski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The World-Spectator