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SK reaches tentative agreement with teachers

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May 21, 2024
By Brandi Cowen

After months of sometimes acrimonious negotiations, on May 17 Saskatchewan’s provincial government and the Saskatchewan Teachers Federation (STF) announced that a tentative agreement had been reached between the Government-Trustee Bargaining Committee (GTBC) and the Teachers‘ Bargaining Committee (TBC).

According to the STF, the two sides met in Saskatoon and reached a tentative agreement that is endorsed and recommended by the TBC and STF Provincial Executive to members.

“This has not been an easy process for anyone involved, but we have arrived at a mutually acceptable agreement that will begin to respond to students needs,” STF President Samantha Becotte told the media late that afternoon. “The Minister (of Education Jeremy Cockrill) and I have both acknowledged that challenges with classroom complexity have compounded over a decade and solutions won’t be found in one budget cycle or one collective agreement.”

Following informal talks between the GTBC and TBC earlier in the week, the STF announced talks were to resume this week in Saskatoon. Negotiations then took place Wednesday, Thursday and Friday of last week.

Becotte said that the agreement is a good start and a step in the right direction. She also thanked the GTBC for their efforts.

“Throughout this process, positive relationships have developed at the table despite the challenges that we have faced, it is evident that the people involved care about public education and about students,” Becotte said.

“I want to personally thank the Minister for listening to teachers, students and their families and for his work advocating to the government caucus and his commitment to finding improvements for public education in Saskatchewan,” she added.

She also thanked students, parents, and their families who supported teachers through the negotiations and job actions.

According to Becotte, the STF will communicate details about the agreement to members over the next few days. That includes a Member Virtual Town Hall on May 21-22, when the STF will present agreement details and answer questions.

The details will become public once the agreement is shared with membership, Becotte said. The vote on the tentative agreement will be held on May 29-30.

Becotte said that over the past week and leading up to the agreement, the conversations were productive.

“We had a couple of informal days to ensure that when we get did get back to the table that there would be sufficient mandate for the GPC to engage in those good faith conversations and good faith negotiations,” she said.

The agreement comes after several months of escalating job actions by teachers, leading up to a work-to-rule campaign before the two sides initially returned to the bargaining table. Becotte was happy to see an end.

“I am a little bit relieved,” she said. “This has been a challenging process for everyone involved and I mean I’m not immune from that.”

The negotiations and teacher job actions have led to sometimes acrimonious and tense relations between the two sides Becotte noticed a difference when negotiations started this week.

“I did feel a change in tone at the table as well. There really was a willingness from all people involved, all parties involved, to reach an agreement We all worked very hard over the course of this week in both sides of the table to get to the point where we would be able to announce a tentative agreement today,” Becotte said.

“There was really a good faith negotiation that had occurred over this weekend, and I think that’s the biggest change in in terms of where we are.”

On May 16, STF members voted on whether to extend a job sanctions mandate that was set to expire at the end of the school year. Of the 83 per cent of members who voted, 95 per cent “supported further sanctions, if needed,” the STF said in a news release.

According to a release by the province, the tentative agreement encompasses various key matters discussed during recent negotiations, reflecting the collaborative efforts of both parties to address the needs of students, families, and teachers across Saskatchewan.

The Minister of Education also addressed the agreement.

“I want to thank parents, teachers, and students for their patience during this process,” Cockrill said in a release.

“I am hopeful that the tentative agreement will be finalized so that predictability is provided to families and teachers.”

In an interview with the Daily Herald Opposition NDP Leader Carla Beck said that she was encouraged by the tentative agreement, but disappointed with how the government conducted negotiations.

“We’ll wait to see what the deal looks like, and of course that vote will rest with teachers,” Beck said. “I trust them, and I have all along, to make the decision that’s best for them, but I think it’s also clear to me, and it has been for a long time, this is not a government that values education. The Minister of Education up until this point has seemed very proud of himself for how he’s vilified teachers and bargained in the media and really gaslit teachers, denied some of the very real issues in classroom.”

Prince Albert Area Teacher’s Association (PAATA) President Jean-Marc Belliveau was not available for an interview on Friday.

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