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Here's how the tentative deal for Saskatchewan teachers compares to previous offers

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As Saskatchewan teachers prepare to vote on a tentative agreement reached with the province, it could mark the end of a labour dispute that stretches back nearly a year.

In May 2023, the initial round of talks began between the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation and the Government-Trustee Bargaining Committee. From the onset, teachers were pushing hard for solutions to address class size and complexity. The issue was already being discussed in 2020 before the COVID-19 pandemic necessitated an early end to negotiations.

“Our withdrawal of these issues from this round of bargaining in no way signals resolution or reduced importance of these issues,” then-STF President Patrick Maze said after the tentative deal was reached in 2020. “Systematic changes take time and are often made incrementally. I believe we have advanced this issue significantly, and the Federation is unwavering in its dedication to address class complexity and ensure an adequately funded public education system in Saskatchewan.”

The 2020 deal was later ratified, in effect until August 31, 2023.

Prior to the deal’s expiration, the government tabled what it hailed as a “fair deal for teachers” in late June. It included a proposed salary increase of three per cent in year one, two per cent in year two, and another two per cent in 2025, the final year of the deal. But it failed to address class size and complexity.

That’s compared to the current tentative deal headed for a vote, which includes a salary increase of three per cent in year one, three per cent in year two, and two per cent in year three with retroactive pay to September 2023.

Negotiations quietly continued into July, when the STF released an update over “the government’s refusal to discuss solutions to the issues of class size and complexity.”

In addition to the lingering issues, the STF also said it was “disappointed” in the initial salary offer with negotiations set to continue into the fall.

The two sides would reach an impasse on Oct. 16, resulting in a sanction vote where 95 per cent of teachers were in favour. The breakdown in talks also led the STF to file for conciliation.

Saskatchewan’s Conciliation Board heard from the two sides over five days in December. The results were released in January, the STF saying the report concluded “teachers have the right to negotiate their working conditions”.

"As we have been saying, teachers' working conditions are students' learning conditions," current STF President Samantha Becotte said at the time. "Most recently, teachers in Quebec and Ontario have reached tentative agreements that include articles on class complexity. So this topic isn't new."

However the committee representing the government and Saskatchewan’s elected school boards disagreed with the STF’s interpretation of the findings, insisting that negotiations stay focused on salary and benefits.

Shortly after the report’s release, job action began with a one-day strike on Jan. 16, continuing to escalate after another round of failed negotiations in February.

The negotiations were reportedly short, with both sides blaming the other for the breakdown.

In an unusual move, Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe released a video prior to the release of the provincial budget outlining ‘the largest increase in school operating funding ever’, but talks remained stalled despite calls from the STF for binding arbitration over the ongoing issues around class size and complexity.

Instead, it took until later in the month of March for a Memorandum of Understanding that would “lay out the terms of an accountability framework to ensure proposed education funding makes it into the classrooms and toward the supports that is intended for – to benefit students directly,” according to an STF release in early April.

At the time, the STF said the collective bargaining agreement must include the following language:

“The parties agree that the Multi-Year Funding Agreement and the accountability framework will be followed and honoured.”

Despite the apparent breakthrough on the potential MOU, teachers would end up implementing a work-to-rule policy on April 5 amid another stall in talks.

The policy was suspended the following Friday with negotiations set to resume, leading to the so-called ‘final offer’ announced Wednesday. The tentative deal does include “reference to the accountability framework in relation to a Memorandum of Understanding among the three parties.”

More details are expected on the new deal and what it contains when Samantha Becotte addresses reporters at a press conference scheduled for Thursday morning.

-- With files from Katherine Hill, Drew Postey, Josh Lynn, Caitlin Brezinski and David Prisciak.

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