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Sask. Teachers Federation declares impasse in contract talks

Education Minister Jeremy Cockrill says government willing to negotiate, wants teachers union to return to bargaining table.
Education Minister Jeremy Cockrill spoke to reporters Oct. 16 on the status of labour negotiations with Saskatchewan Teachers Federation.

REGINA - The Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation has declared a bargaining impasse and say they will hold a sanctions vote next week.

In a news release Monday, STF reported that the Teachers’ Bargaining Committee declared an impasse in negotiations with the Government-Trustee Bargaining Committee, and will be filing for conciliation. They further state that teachers will Teachers vote on sanctions Oct. 24 and 25. The vote coincides with the government's Speech from the Throne scheduled for Oct. 25.

“The government is leaving us no other option. We’ve met nine times and there has been no significant movement on issues that are important to teachers, students and families,” said Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation President Samantha Becotte in a news release.

“We always want to reach an agreement through negotiations. And we will return to the table, day or night, any time the government is prepared to actually negotiate. But as it stands today, this is pointless.”

In response to the STF announcement, Education Minister Jeremy Cockrill says the government is willing to negotiate.

“The government at the table. We’re ready to get to business and get a deal done,” said Cockrill to reporters at the legislature Monday afternoon. 

Cockrill said that when he met with Ms. Becotte a number of weeks ago that he communicated that they were “ready to bargain as government any day of the week, any time.” 

He also indicated to reporters there were some issues that they were starting to find common ground, but made it known he thought the only way to find common ground is if both sides are at the table.

“Government’s still at the table. So we would encourage teachers to communicate with their bargaining teams, to communicate with STF,  leadership to come back to the table, we believe we have a fair deal on the table, and you know deals aren’t bargained on the floor of the Assembly. They’re not bargained here in the rotunda, they’re not bargained on the picket line, so again we encourage union leadership to come back to the table and let’s try and get a deal done.”

Cockrill still believes a strike can be averted.

“We take that seriously as a government. Again, we want to get to deal that provides for predictability and clarity for students, for teachers, for families in this province. You know, I guess I would just say that we’re here at the table, I’d love for the other side to come back to the table so we can continue to work on a deal.”

As for rallies that are being staged by teachers, including one held this past weekend in Moose Jaw and another planned for outside Cockrill’s own constituency office in North Battleford on Nov. 4, Cockrill said peaceful protest is part of the democratic process. 

“But the way we get a deal done is at the bargaining table,” said Cockrill.

In speaking to reporters Monday, Opposition Leader Carla Beck wanted to see bargaining resume, but accused the government of looking to divide people.

“It is our desire that the government, that the teachers be at the table, that they sit down and get a deal for teachers, and deal with the main issue that teachers have been bringing forward … issues with class size and composition.”

“Again, a government that instead of working towards actually addressing those issues, has cut the funding over the last decade that has resulted in fewer supports for kids in schools, increased complexity. Instead of getting to the table and actually addressing those issues that are felt all across the province, we saw the government willing to put up billboards ahead head of bargaining and continue to… further divide, to inflame, cause divide between parents and teachers. Again, this is a government that keeps on going to the same well as they are failing on so many issues like healthcare, the cost with living, the economy…. This is a government that goes to the well of blaming others, of dividing and trying to distract or sowing division.”

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