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Sask. teachers, province both seek return to bargaining following offer rejection


Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation (STF) president Samantha Becotte says she was not surprised that teachers voted no to the province’s latest contract offer.

When results were released Thursday night it showed 90 per cent of teachers voting down the offer with a 92.2 per cent voter turnout.

“To me this sends a very clear message that what government had offered within their final offer was not enough, not enough in terms of protections around our working conditions and improvements for students’ learning conditions,” Becotte said during an interview with CTV Morning Live Saskatchewan on Friday morning.

According to Becotte, teachers will not take any job action if the province is ready and willing to return to the bargaining table. A scenario both sides appeared to be in favour of on Friday.  

Becotte added that along with plans to address classrom size and complexities, the pay raise being offered was also not enough. 

“We need increases to compensation that addresses the loss of purchasing power and curbs the growing recruitment and retention issues that are being experienced not just across Saskatchewan but across Canada,” she said.     

Voting closed for STF members Thursday at 6 p.m. with results released publicly around 7:15 p.m.

The province’s offer dubbed by the STF as a “final offer” included an eight per cent pay raise spread over three years – three per cent each in years one and two and a two per cent increase in year three the final year of the offer.

Classroom size and composition, two topics many teachers say are the most important to them were not part of the offer, as the province has said those issues are being addressed in an agreement signed with school divisions earlier in the spring. With a promise of $46 million in additional funding for classrooms included also part of the province's last offer. 

According to Becotte, that's not enough, she said school divisions have already warned of potential cuts which she added would mean larger classrooms and less of a focus on students' needs being addressed.   

“I expected it to be a ‘no’ from members that is what we’ve been hearing consistently, but I also know we have 13,500 teachers and we do not always hear from everyone so it’s a little bit uncertain leading up to the vote what that silent proportion of our members are thinking,” Becotte said.

After results were released, Education Minister Jeremy Cockrill said he was disappointed to see the vast majority of teachers against the offer.

“The best deal will be reached at the bargaining table, and both sides should immediately agree to return to the table and avoid any further sanctions that could jeopardize instructional time and important milestone events for Saskatchewan students,” Cockrill said in an emailed statement.

On Friday Cockrill reiterated that they would not be including classroom size and complexity solutions in any new mandate moving forward.

“This has consistently been an issue that has been brought forward as a priority not just by teachers but by students, parents and members of the public,” Becotte said.

The STF wants to get back to the bargaining table as soon as the province comes forward with a new mandate, according to Becotte. 

“We urge the government and SSBA (Saskatchewan School Boards Association) to provide a new mandate and despite the ministers comments a mandate that needs to include a plan to address classroom complexity,” Becotte said.

Cockrill said he feels government has already moved on significant requests teachers have.

“And I would say we haven’t seen the same from the teachers’ bargaining committee, but again government is committed to making significant investments in our Kindergarten to Grade 12 education sector,” he said.

Becotte added she hopes the province and SSBA have been drawing up a new mandate in the event their last offer was rejected, adding they have been planning next steps in the event the offer was turned away.

Cockrill stopped short of promising a return to the bargaining table as soon as next week but said there will be some conversations had.

“I can say there will be some discussions happening next week, in terms of what that looks like is still being determined,” he said. 

 A voter turnout of 92.2 per cent shows how engaged teachers have been throughout the process, Becotte said.

“We had two town halls over the last week with over 7,000 members joining us in the evenings for about an hour and a half. Members are engaged. They have been with us throughout the entire process and have been taking significant actions over the course of the last four months and they want to see better for public education in Saskatchewan.”

Teachers in the province have been without a contract since August of 2023, with initial bargaining beginning just under one year ago. In October teachers voted overwhelmingly in favour of taking job action. That job action then began in January and included rotating one day strikes, pausing supervision and extracurricular activities and "work to rule." 

 Publics' support appears to be split

Throughout the entire process public feelings appear to be continuously split.

"I think it's just silly. I don't understand it. When I went to school we never had this. I'm just frustrated with it. I pray it ends soon, but that's all dependent I guess on the teachers,” one person said in Saskatoon on Friday.

"They should be rejecting it. Those teachers have rights and they deserve a higher paying wage and better classroom dynamics because it's just not fair at this point. We need education, we need students and we need teachers.” another person said.

 -- With files from David Prisciak, Caitlin Brezinski. and Keenan Sorokan. Top Stories

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