STF announces return of sanctions after negotiations stall

Prince Albert teachers hold up signs and wave to passing drivers as the first day of the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation rotating strike hit Prince Albert on Feb. 1, 2024. -- Jason Kerr/Daily Herald

The Saskatchewan Teachers Federation (STF) announced late Tuesday evening that they will be resuming sanctions after negotiations with the provincial government fell through.

According to an STF press release, the Teachers’ Bargaining Committee and Government-Trustee Bargaining Committee were scheduled to resume negotiations on Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. However, the STF said the province advised them they would in the afternoon, that they would not be heading back to the bargaining table.

With no further bargaining sessions in sight, the STF says sanctions will be reinstated starting on Friday, February 16.

“The Government-Trustee Bargaining Committee promised a renewed mandate when it came back to the bargaining table, but it was readily apparent that the mandate was extremely limited,” STF President Samantha Becotte said in a press release. “They immediately began stalling tactics that undermined good faith negotiations. Instead of beginning Monday morning, the GTBC delayed until Monday afternoon, then pushed Tuesday’s start to 5:30 p.m. before eventually cancelling altogether.

“The GTBC promised a renewed mandate when it came back to the bargaining table, but it is unable to negotiate without directly consulting the Minister of Education,” Becotte added.

According to the STF the government has since been in direct contact with the union regarding a proposal that would occur outside of the bargaining process. The STF says it responded that all discussions must take place within the negotiation process.

“As Minister Cockrill has stated, and the STF agrees, the best deals are made at the table,” Becotte said. “The STF is willing to resume negotiations as soon as the GTBC has a legitimate mandate to negotiate on all items.

“Although government now openly acknowledges that there are complexity concerns in schools, it

refuses to make long-term commitments where it can be held accountable.

“Several other provinces –Ontario, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Quebec and B.C.–have language around class size and complexity in their collective agreements with teachers. This government has already included patient complexity and an innovation fund as part of its new agreement with the province’s doctors. Government has shown it can and will address these matters in contracts when it chooses.”

With the announcement for sanctions returning coming on Tuesday it fell into the 48 hours notice as the STF has followed with previous one-day strikes and rotating strike.

Teachers from the Saskatchewan Rivers and Prince Albert Catholic School Divisions will be in Shellbrook from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Friday to protest at Premier Scott Moe’s constituency office. Teachers from two French language schools in Prince Albert, plus the Saskatchewan Distance Learning Centre’s North Central Campus are also slated to join the process.

The protest is part of a one-day rotating strike. Teachers in the North Battleford area will also be picketing at the education minister’s constituency office in North Battleford.

Becotte said it’s time for the provincial government to start listening to the concerns from parents, students, and teachers, and get back to bargaining.

“It is clear that school boards require proper, sustainable funding to meet the diversity of needs in classrooms across the province. By working together, we can ensure students receive the education and supports they need to fulfill their potential,” she said.

In addition to job action planned for Friday, families can expect sanctions to resume following the February school break. Job action will continue until government gives its bargaining committee the tools and authority needed to honestly engage on teachers’ issues and make progress toward a tentative agreement.

“Teachers understand that job action is a significant inconvenience to many families, but we appreciate the heartfelt and unwavering support we have received from all parts of the province. Parents and caregivers, students, businesses, community groups and individuals understand that an investment in education is an investment in the lives of children and youth and the prosperity of our province,” Becotte explained.

Becotte has scheduled a press conference for 10 a.m. Wednesday morning.

Premier Scott Moe took to social media Tuesday night, posting a video from Education Minister Jeremy Cockrill. Moe wrote that the province was willing to negotiate, but the STF was not. Cockrill echoed those sentiments in his video.

“We are disappointed to hear that the teachers’ union has once again walked away from the bargaining table,” Cockrill said. “Two new commitments were offered to address the STF’s outstanding concerns…. Bargaining requires both sides to be at the table, and the Government-Trustee Bargaining Committee was ready to negotiate a fair deal, but the teachers’ union chose to walk away after just 30 minutes.”

Cockrill said the GTBC made a new salary offer, and a new commitment about classroom composition, but was rejected. He said the province has offered annual class size and composition funding, the same salary deal MLAs get, and workplace safety enhancements, among other things.

“Teachers and children should be in the classroom,” Cockrill said. “Union leadership should be at the bargaining table. We remain at the table, ready to negotiate whenever union leadership is.”