It’s back to the drawing board after the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation rejected the Government Trustee Bargaining Committee’s proposal for binding arbitration on Wednesday night and declared an impasse. 

This comes as the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation membership recently rejected a tentative agreement that was endorsed by the STF executive. 

STF president Samantha Becotte told reporters on Thursday that she still believes that the two sides are close to a deal at the bargaining table and binding arbitration is not necessary. 

“We have had these conversations for long enough. I think that they understand the issues that we have been talking about and the growing class complexity and the need for additional supports. It just comes down to that political will of committing to funding those and committing over a period of time, continuing to see improvements to our classes,” Becotte explained. 

When asked about the teachers’ federation offering binding arbitration in March, Becotte said the landscape had changed. When the teachers offered binding arbitration, Becotte said the government wasn’t willing to come to the bargaining table and no progress was being made. She feels much progress has been made during the last couple of bargaining sessions. 

Meanwhile, she also wants to leave the final decision in the hands of those closest to the situation and not a third party. 

“If it goes to arbitration, it involves a third party, a lawyer potentially less connected. But I’m confident in the arguments that we could make to advance the issues of classroom complexity,” Becotte said. 

Meanwhile, the provincial government and the Ministry of Education are holding steady on its offer for binding arbitration. 

Minister of Education Jeremy Cockrill met with reports on Thursday morning and felt there was a clear divide between the teachers’ union leadership and its membership. 

“There’s clearly some sort of divide between the STF leadership and the membership on this. Certainly, I think it’s a good opportunity for a fair and third-party process to come in and figure out how to get a deal done and really provide certainty for students and families going forward,” said Cockrill. 

He went on to say the binding arbitration, while it could be a lengthy process, binding arbitration would at last bring “certainty” and a “clear path forward” for parents and students. 

“It provides certainty for students so that we don’t need to have this back and forth every day, every week about what’s happening with noon supervision, what’s happening with extra-curricular, what’s happening with graduation. Again, providing that certainty is of most importance to me,” he said. 

Cockrill added that the teachers have dug their heels in on their position, while the provincial government has made several concessions throughout the bargaining process. 

“Our government has tried throughout this process to show that we’re committed to making sure supports are available. We’ve increased that number several times and, again, when it comes to certainty going forward, that’s what really we see binding arbitration as,” Cockrill said. 

When it comes to graduation, Cockrill told reporters that the Ministry of Education has reached out to school divisions to offer support to make sure any sanctions will not interfere with graduation ceremonies. 

He said so far there have been very few school divisions that have told the ministry they are concerned graduation ceremonies will not happen. 

“There’s a small handful of school divisions that have expressed concerns about their ability to make those events happen, and again, we’re been asking those divisions how can we help? How can we support you in making sure that students are graduating this year and have an opportunity to celebrate the hard work that they’ve put in, and that teachers have an opportunity to celebrate that product of their work this year,” he said. 

Due to the impasse, the teachers will implement province-wide work-to-rule sanctions. This includes withdrawing all voluntary services including: 

  • Restricted workdays. 
  • Arrive at their workplace 15 minutes before the start of the regularly scheduled school day and exit the workplace 15 minutes after the regularly scheduled school day ends. 
  • Complete withdrawal of all extracurricular services. 
  • Withdrawal of all voluntary services outside the restricted workday. 
  • Withdrawal of voluntary services before school, during the noon hour, after school and in the evening including noon hour supervision. 
  • Members must leave their place of work during the scheduled noon hour.