Last Thursday evening, results from a two-day vote on a tentative agreement lauded by both the provincial government and the Saskatchewan Teacher’s Federation was rejected. From the 88 per cent of eligible voters casting their ballot, 55 per cent of teachers voted ‘no’.

“We take our direction from the membership, and members have spoken. The result of this vote is a message to government and the Saskatchewan School Boards Association that teachers need to see real changes to classroom complexity and compensation. In feedback from members, we heard clearly that their priorities haven’t been adequately addressed,” said STF President Samantha Becotte. “In the days leading up to this vote, I stressed that the fight for public education will continue, and our members will determine which forum that battle will take place in. The STF Executive and I will do whatever it takes, for as long as it takes, to get a deal done with the support of our collective to strengthen our profession and public education for current and future students.”

In speaking with reporters Friday morning, Becotte described the tone at the bargaining table that produced the latest offer as positive.

“We had five days of good, productive conversations with back and forth negotiations,” she said. “It didn’t result in the improvements that we wanted, but that’s the nature of negotiations – everyone has to give a little bit.” 

Ultimately, it was the teachers’ united voice that prevailed, even with a narrow margin tipping the scales in the final decision.

“This is a message to government that teachers have little trust in their commitments,” Becotte remarked. “This is a direct result from our past experiences with committees where the final recommendations are dismissed and ignored, or promises that are never followed through, or provincial budgets that leaves school divisions making difficult decisions on which supports to cut or reduce and breach teacher wants to see improved supports for our students.”

The offer is the second one presented in a month that the teachers hove voted down, after an initial two-day vote held May 8 and 9 saw 90 per cent of teachers reject that agreement.

“I am disappointed by the result of the vote that will reject not only a fair agreement negotiated between government, school divisions and the STF, but one that was endorsed and recommended by the STF executive senior leadership,” Education Minister Jeremy Cockrill said in a statement after voting results were made public. “We will have more to say about next steps very soon.”

He expanded on those thoughts Friday morning in speaking with media

“Even worse, I know that this is disappointing for students, families, and teachers who are looking for predictability and stability when it comes to education,” Cockrill said. “What I’m here to talk about today is a clear path forward – a path forward that will preserve instructional time for our students, preserve activities that are important to students and families. I think everybody in this situation wants to get an agreement done.”

From sparse details released prior to the recent vote, it sounded as though teachers were receiving what they wanted, including an extra $18 million per year towards classroom complexity, more transparency, and teachers having a voice in deciding classroom support funding.

“I appreciate the Government-Trustee Bargaining Committee’s willingness to bargain in good faith during the meetings that led us to the tentative deal. I expect that these productive negotiations will continue, and we can return to the table to chart a path towards an agreement that will meet the needs of Saskatchewan’s students and teachers without further interruptions to the school year,” Becotte said.

An olive branch emerged after the vote as the Teacher’s Bargaining Committee verbally invited the Government-Trustee Bargaining Committee back to the negotiating table, with a formal written invitation issued Friday morning.

The May 16 mandate from teachers will remain in effect until an agreement is reach, giving teachers the ability to impose sanctions if they so choose.

“If we don’t hear response from the GTBC on a path forward to an agreement, then further sanction actions will be announced in short order,” Becotte confirmed. “As always, we will provide 48 hours notice of any action, and if we’re returning to the table, any sanction actions that we have announced would be suspended or canceled.”

On Friday morning, Cockrill noted that he is calling for binding arbitration on the latest offer, something Becotte reminded had been already requested by the STF previously.

“We’ve spent time at the bargaining table now, we had two tentative agreements,” Cockrill said. “This last tentative agreement was endorsed by the Saskatchewan Teachers Federation leadership. I’d say we made progress in both of those rounds of bargaining, to come to those tentative agreements. I think where we’re at now, though, is we need to provide clarity for students and families in this province and so that’s why we’re suggesting binding arbitration; that’s why we’re putting binding arbitration forward as the path.”

“We had provided that option back in March when no real negotiations had occurred at the table,” Becotte said of proposing binding arbitration. “We would love to get back to the table and start negotiating with the government, provided that they give the GTBC a renewed mandate to address classroom complexity. But if they’re not willing to engage in those conversations and have that good faith back and forth conversation, then binding arbitration could be an option for forward.”

Cockrill also noted the GTBC has contacted the TBC with the offer of binding arbitration.

“The Government Trustee Bargaining Committee will be contacting the Teacher’s Bargaining Committee this morning – if that hasn’t happened already – and putting forward our offer to move to binding arbitration, and hopefully we can pick those discussions up as soon as possible,” he said. “Obviously, we feel that the best deals do happen at the at the bargaining table. We came to a tentative agreement that was agreed upon by both sides, I think both sides left the table a few weeks ago comfortable with the agreement that we had come to. The STF leadership endorsed and recommended that tentative agreement to their membership. Obviously, that agreement lost in a close vote over the last couple of days, so given the fact that we’ve been at the bargaining table, we’ve made progress there, what we’re hearing from the people in this province is they want clarity going forward, and I think binding arbitration presents the best opportunity for that going forward.”

By Ryan Kiedrowski, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Original Published on Jun 03, 2024 at 19:46

This item reprinted with permission from   Moosomin World-Spectator   Moosomin, Saskatchewant

Comments are Welcome - Leave a reply below - Posts are moderated