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Sask. teachers, province to resume contract negotiations, job action to end

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The Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation (STF) and provincial government will be returning to the bargaining table.

STF president Samantha Becotte made the announcement during a virtual news conference on Friday, saying that the Teachers’ Bargaining Committee (TBC) will have a new mandate from the Government-Trustee Bargaining Committee (GTBC) to review.

The two sides have not sat down for talks since February.

“We have been assured that the Government-Trustee Bargaining Committee has a new mandate to properly address all of the issues important to teachers,” Becotte said in a news release.

Among teachers’ most important concerns has been classroom size and complexity.

Becotte added the TBC believes this is a positive step forward by the government.

Negotiations are expected to resume between the two sides on Tuesday.

As a result, all ongoing job action will be suspended Friday at midnight, the STF said.

That includes work to rule, which teachers began on Monday resulting in staff arriving at schools 15 minutes before students and leaving 15 minutes after students. Lunchtime and extracurricular activity supervision was also suspended.

Becotte said after the past couple of weeks, she has appreciated discussions that have taken place around a memorandum of understanding and accountability framework that has happened between the STF and Ministry of Education.

“Through those discussions, I am pleased to say that we have been able to make sufficient progress on the language in the MOU and collective agreement. Through this we are happy to say that we’ll be looking forward to accepting the Government-Trustee Bargaining team’s invitation to return to the bargaining table,” Becotte said.

On Friday, Education Minister Jeremy Cockrill seemed eager to get back to the bargaining table alongside the rest of the government-trustee bargaining committee.

"We look forward to that because obviously, we know everyone in this province wants to come to an agreement."

Cockrill said the province hasn't moved on its position of not including class size or composition in the contract, but the province did alter some of its language surrounding an accountability framework as part of a proposed memorandum of understanding (MOU) between the Saskatchewan School Board Association (SSBA), the province and the STF, which has been left unsigned thus far.

"We are not going to be including class size and complexity in the contract, but what we are willing to include is having some wording around teacher voice and ensuring that teachers do have a voice about what happens in their local school divisions."

"We think having that teacher voice is really important. And I know the STF feels the same way I know teachers around the province feel the same way."

In a statement provided to CTV News, Cockrill thanked the STF senior leadership for their willingness to work collaboratively to find a path back to the bargaining table. 

"As I have always said, the best agreement will be reached at the bargaining table, and I am optimistic about the prospect of getting an agreement done on behalf of students, families, and teachers next week," he said. 

In a video posted on social media Friday, Premier Scott Moe said the STF announcement is good news, as parents, students, and teachers have been frustrated by the ongoing impasse.

“It has cost students valuable learning time in the classroom and [has] taken away important extracurricular activities outside of the classroom,” he said.

Moe went on to say that the government signed a multi-year agreement to deliver supports and is prepared to sign a new accountability framework “to ensure that funding is being used where it belongs to provide our kids the best possible education.”

“This common ground has led to today's announcement that bargaining will resume next week and I am very hopeful that it will form the very basis for bargaining a new agreement that works for all sides and ensures that our kids receive the best possible education,” he said.

Saskatchewan teachers have been without a contract since August of 2023, with initial bargaining beginning in May 2023.

-- With files from Keenan Sorokan. 

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