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'At any point': Sask. teachers ready to return to bargaining table if conditions met, STF president says

The conciliation process is underway as the Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation (STF) and the provincial government try to find a middle ground in their ongoing bargaining agreement negotiations.

“We had declared our impasse, we had our sanctions vote and then we began our conciliation process,” STF President Samantha Becotte told CTV News.

“So we’re hoping that process can bring the two sides closer together.”

Conciliation is a process that includes bringing in professional facilitators who are used to resolve disputes after other unassisted efforts have failed.

The move marks the latest update in the month’s long labour dispute – which has seen long pauses from negotiating, controversial billboard campaigns, dueling messages between Becotte and Saskatchewan’s education minister over social media, as well as rallies outside MLA offices.

Becotte says the four “mini rallies” have been smashing successes in terms of turnout.

“The turnout has been absolutely incredible, it’s been so good to see,” she said. “I think it just shows that the public and parents and business owners in Saskatchewan are recognizing the importance of public education and also recognizing the challenges that have been created due to years of underfunding in Saskatchewan.”

The STF has demanded that issues of class size as well as class complexity be included in a new collective agreement.

The province’s stance is that school divisions are in the best position to manage class size and composition – claiming that their stance is informed from what school divisions are telling the government.

“We’ve certainly heard that loud and clear from the 27 school divisions and so that’s not something that we’re looking for in a bargaining agreement,” Education Minister Jeremy Cockrill said back in October.

Becotte says the asks around class size and composition are as much for the wellbeing of teachers as they are for students.

“Teachers’ working conditions are exactly what students learning conditions are,” she explained. “It’s just becoming more and more of an impossible task to meet the needs of all of our students when it’s just one adult in the classroom supporting them.”

With the conciliation process underway, Becotte reiterated that the STF is always willing to come back to the table if the government is willing to have “real” conversations.

“Obviously throughout all of this, if the government is actually willing to come back to the table and actually have real conversations that will address that class size and complexity issues we’ve been talking about – then we’re happy to come back to the table at any point,” she said.

CTV News Saskatchewan’s full conversation with Samantha Becotte can be found on the player above. Top Stories

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