Teachers Pausing Job Action

A release from the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation today states they will resume bargaining for a new provincial collective agreement. The decision comes as 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 Government Trustee Bargaining Committee are expected to resume on Tuesday, April 16. The resumption of formal negotiations means that the job action currently taking place will be suspended effective 11:59 p.m. today, Friday, April 12. The STF will not implement sanctions while active negotiations are taking place.

“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 the government is a positive step,” says STF President Samantha 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 October 2023, 90 percent of the province’s teachers voted 95 percent in approval of using sanctions to further negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement. The current collective agreement expired in August 2023, but negotiations began in June. In December a neutral, third-party Conciliation Board was convened to see if job sanctions could be avoided, however, in their final report the conciliators noted that the two sides remained at an impasse.

Teachers began job action in January with a one-day province-wide walkout on January 16th. Further sanctions including rotating walkouts, withdrawal of noon-hour supervision, and the cancellation of extracurricular activities were held until the Easter break. Over Easter, the two sides were scheduled to meet again but talks broke down again which resulted in work-to-rule action by Saskatchewan teachers. Conversations over the past two weeks contributed to the willingness of the teachers' bargaining committee to agree to return to the table. Becotte said representatives of the Ministry reached out to see if further adjustments to the wording of the Memorandum of Understanding around accountability could bring the two sides closer together.

The relationship has been strained between the Government and the STF in the last few months, but both are optimistic that they will be able to come to an agreement. 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. Sanctions, she continued, are difficult for all involved and the teachers and their STF representatives recognize the challenges that families have experienced and are truly appreciative of the support of parents and students. The engagement of parents, caregivers, students, businesses, and community organizations played an important role in moving the government back to the bargaining table.

The Multi-year funding agreement with the Saskatchewan School Boards Association and MOU with the STF are the areas where class size and complexity, and accountability will be addressed. Becotte shared with media that she and all the members of the Teachers’ Bargaining Committee are willing to clear their calendars and to work through until an agreement is reached. “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.”

Carol Baldwin, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Wakaw Recorder