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As Sask. teachers vote on new sanctions mandate, education minister, STF say bargaining is restarting

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Negotiations between the provincial government and Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation (STF) will be restarting on Wednesday, according to the province’s education minister.

“We’re actually starting up bargaining again later today,” Cockrill said in an interview with CTV Morning Live Saskatchewan. “We’ve had some informal talks between our two bargaining committees over the last couple of days.”

Cockrill said the informal talks were aimed at learning more where the STF is coming from after members overwhelmingly voted no to an offer that was on the table. In an email to CTV News on Wednesday, the STF confirmed formal bargaining talks were resuming this week. The federation added that no media availabilities will be held while negotiations are taking place.

“I’m encouraged that our bargaining teams are getting back to the table today in a more formal way. Again, everybody here wants to get a deal done, we just have to sit down and make that happen,” Cockrill said.

While bargaining gets underway once again, STF members are voting to decide whether or not sanctions can be extended past this school year, with the current mandate for job action ending on June 30.

Voting will be open Wednesday and Thursday with results expected to be shared with the public Thursday evening or Friday morning.

When asked how far away the two sides are, Cockrill said he feels they are very close on several issues at hand.

“There’s also a few issues where we differ and we’ve got to find some way where we can come to an agreement that will work for the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation but that is also going to work for Saskatchewan taxpayers and families as well.”

Both teachers and STF President Samantha Becotte have been steadfast in saying that classroom size and complexity fixes need to be a part of any offer put forward by the province.

The province meanwhile is adamant they will not include those issues in any potential agreement and instead have promised certain funding for school divisions to address the issues.

“The tentative agreement that we had previously that teachers had the opportunity to vote on last week, it did talk about the fact that we were going to honour and follow our multi-year funding agreement and the accountability framework MOU that we’ve put forward,” Cockrill said.

According to Cockrill, putting classroom size and complexity into a provincial agreement would bind school divisions.

“That’s not something we are very interested in doing,” he added.

The last offer that was voted “no” by 90 per cent of the 92 per cent of STF members who voted, included an eight per cent salary increase over three years. Three per cent in years one and two and two per cent in year three.

“We’ve settled several other tables with ratified agreements at a wage mandate that made sense for the workers but also made sense for the Saskatchewan government and Saskatchewan taxpayers and that is certainly the balance we are trying to find with every table that we’re at,” Cockrill said.

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