STF suspends plans to withdraw noon hour supervision services as union and province set date for new bargaining meeting

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) has suspended plans to withdraw noon hour supervision services after being invited back to the bargaining table.

The STF announced Wednesday evening that they would meet with the Government-Trustee Bargaining Committee (GTBC) on Monday, Feb. 12 in Saskatoon. STF President Samantha Becotte said they were pleased to hear the GTBC received a new mandate from the provincial government.

“We’re encouraged by this change of course,” Becotte said in a press release. “The solidarity of teachers and the outpouring of support from parents, students, businesses, churches, and religious groups, and the general public across the province have played a crucial role in helping bring government back to the table.

“These past weeks have made it clear that teachers are united and committed to students and public education. Should these negotiations fail, job action will resume.”

The news came after the STF held their second day of rotating strikes. Teachers in nine northern communities, including La Ronge, plus others in Warman and Saskatoon were on the picket line between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. on Wednesday. The job action involved roughly 4,300 teachers and impacted around 65,300 students.

Teachers in Prince Albert took part in the first rotating strike on Feb. 1. Becotte said there are no plans for further job action as a show of commitment to good-faith bargaining.

“We welcome the opportunity to return to the bargaining table to discuss teachers’ proposals and the important issues facing education in Saskatchewan,” Becotte said. “We are hopeful that the GTBC’s new mandate will allow for productive negotiations that will address the needs of students and teachers.”

The provincial government released a video statement by Education Minster Jeremy Cockrill hours before the STF suspended plans to withdraw supervision services. In it, Cockrill said the bargaining committee has been instructed to negotiate a deal that would see teachers receive annual salary increases calculated with the same formula to determine MLA salary raises.

The salary adjustments are based on the cost of living, Cockrill said, with a three per cent ceiling, and a zero per cent floor, depending on the Consumer Price Index for the previous year.

“The teachers’ union clearly stated that they would need to see a renewed mandate from the government in order to return to the bargaining table, and now that a renewed mandate has been provided, it’s time for the teachers’ union to be true to their word,” Cockrill said in the video. “Let’s get back to the bargaining table where the best agreements are negotiated for our students, our teachers, and all Saskatchewan families.”

Cockrill also defended the government’s investments in education in the video. He said the government has provided $53.1 million for new plans like specialized support classrooms, plus more than $300 million in funding during the most recent provincial budget.

Cockrill promised more education spending in the upcoming provincial budget, but said local school boards would decide how best to spend it.