STF lifts sanctions, bargaining to resume next week

After escalating to work-to-rule this week, the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation will resume bargaining for a new provincial collective agreement next week.

According to the STF, the decision is a result of ongoing discussions with government that have addressed teachers’ concerns regarding the accountability of funding to address class size and complexity.

Negotiations with the GTBC are expected to resume Tuesday, April 16. The resumption of formal negotiations means job action by teachers will be suspended effective 11:59 p.m. on Friday, April 12.

STF President Samantha Becotte took a more conciliatory tone in her press conference with media on Friday morning.

"I would like to share a thank you with the Minister of Education in recognition of the challenges that students and teachers are facing in the pre-K to 12 public education system and for his commitment to begin improving the conditions in classrooms through multiyear funding agreement and accountability frameworks,” Becotte said.

According to Becotte, the government has assured the STF that the new Government-Trustee Bargaining Committee mandate will properly address all of the issues important to teachers.

Becotte also thanked students and families and the public for their support.

"I know sanctions are never an easy time for anyone,” Becotte said. “I can definitely say that on behalf of Teachers of Saskatchewan, that these are not easy actions to take, but we appreciate your support through all of the actions that we have taken.”

Becotte said there has been progression over the past few weeks in discussion about the language in the MOU signed with the Saskatchewan School Boards Association (SSBA) and the Accountability Framework.

"Through this, we are happy to say that we will be looking forward to accepting the Government Trustee Bargaining team’s invitation to return to the bargaining table next week with their renewed mandate in good faith,” she said.

She explained that the long term commitments in the accountability framework will ensure funding goes directly to classrooms.

"Teachers look forward to working together with all education sector partners as we strive to improve the experiences of all of our students and classrooms across Saskatchewan and deliver the high quality education that the 200,000 students that we serve deserve and have a right to,” she said.

Recently, Education Minister Jeremy Cockril has been more conciliatory with regards to accountability for funding to address classroom issues. The government has moved on a number of its positions since bargaining first started, including a new multi-year funding agreement and a proposed MOU between the Saskatchewan School Boards Association (SSBA), the province and the STF.

The STF will not implement sanctions while negotiations are taking place.

According to Becotte, the specific details around what the bargaining days are, and location have not been determined.

She added that the ongoing dispute has caused strain in the relationship with both the government and SSBA.

"I do think that there's a recognition that we need to refocus on finding those solutions and working together to find those solutions for everyone,” she said. “I do feel that that that has been a change that I've seen with the Ministry and with the Minister.

"I'm hopeful that this is a step in the right direction that we can continue on this good work. In the end, it's only going to benefit our students that we're here to serve and we're here to support.”

Becotte says the efforts of teachers have created a valuable conversation around the issue of class size and complexity and the importance of providing learning environments that best support students. The engagement of parents, caregivers, students, businesses and community organizations played an important role in moving government back to the bargaining table

The MOU, which has not yet been signed, sets the ground for an accountability framework which could be implemented in divisions across Saskatchewan to direct how money is used for classroom supports.

“I’m very optimistic,” Cockrill said during a media scrum in Saskatoon on Friday. “Everyone in this province wants to come to an agreement.”

Cockrill said that class size and complexity language will still not be included in the contract. However, he said the government is willing to include some wording that ensures teachers have a voice in what happens in their local school divisions and schools.

In a statement emailed to the Herald Cockrill welcomed the news that the STF wants to return to the bargaining table.

"I thank the STF senior leadership for their willingness to work collaboratively to find a path back to the bargaining table,” Cockrill said.

“Our government wants to get back to a place where government, school boards and teachers are all working together to improve education in Saskatchewan,” he added.

“Parents and families have been significantly affected by job sanctions over the last few weeks and months and it is time to move forward to ensure our children can be in the classroom and participate in extra-curricular activities.”

Premier Scott Moe took to social media via Facebook and X (formerly Twitter) to comment on the update.

“Our government has met a number of the STF requests to try and reach an agreement,” he said, adding that the inclusion of an accountability framework in the collective bargaining agreement is “a reasonable position to take, and our government is prepared to see this language included in the contract.”

Michael.oleksyn@paherald.sk.ca

Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald