Sask. The Teachers Federation will not return to the negotiating table until the government includes commitments in the contract

The Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation (STF) has said it will not return to the negotiating table until the province’s most recent funding promises are included in a new collective agreement.

In a surprise announcement ahead of budget day on Wednesday, Premier Scott Moe took to X to reveal an increase in operating funding for education of $180 million in the 2024-2025 budget.

Moe touted the announcement as the “largest increase ever in school operating funding” in the province’s history, a claim STF president Samantha Becotte was quick to dispute.

“They’re talking about a record investment, and it’s a bigger number than what we had last year, although the $180 million they’re referring to as an increase also includes the money that’s been announced,” he told reporters at the legislature. Thursday.

According to the Prime Minister, funds allocated specifically to classroom support will increase from $300 million to $356 million in the next budget.

“There’s a 15 percent increase in that particular space,” Moe explained at an event Thursday morning.

While Becotte said the STF appreciates the increased funding committed, the federation still opposes any agreement made outside of its collective bargaining agreement.

“There should be no problem including it in a collective agreement. Where the government can be held accountable. School boards can be held accountable and students get what they need. They get what they deserve.”

Guaranteed funding remains the federation’s top concern, citing concerns that funding will be cut following the 2024 provincial election.

Becotte said funding through the collective bargaining agreement will allow for transparency and sustainability for both faculty and students.

“If there is guaranteed funding, then boards could make the decisions but still be responsible for ensuring that any decisions they make include support in schools and in classrooms with students,” he explained.

Examples of supports that address classroom complexity could be reducing the number of classes divided into grades, smaller classes in urban schools facing overcrowding, or hiring counselors in communities where there are concerns about the mental health and well-being of students. youths.

“There are many ways this can happen, but then it’s a report that gets out to teachers or the public to know that the funds that were dedicated through the collective bargaining agreement actually went to support our classrooms and our students,” he added. . .

Becotte said the memorandum of understanding (MOU) offered by the ministry after the two sides’ latest negotiation attempt did not inspire faith in the government’s promises.

“There is a clause within that agreement that says the government can cancel or terminate it within 12 months. That is not a genuine agreement,” he said.

“The needs of our students do not come and go with the election cycle. We need predictable and sustainable financing,” Becotte added.

Moe argued in his comments to reporters that a funding commitment in the provincial budget should be promising enough for the STF.

“It is the definitive document to ensure that funding flows to our education sector,” he said. “The budget is the right place for this to happen.”

The premier went further and said funding allocated for classroom support would not change after this year’s provincial election.

“That is not going to decrease as long as we are government. That’s this year’s budget. I can’t tell you what will be in the budget next year. A lot of things will happen,” Moe said.

“But if the Saskatchewan Party is the government next year, that number is not going to go down.”

The government has remained steadfast in its commitment to discussing salaries and benefits only at the bargaining table, leaving funding for classroom size and complexity to the local boards of Saskatchewan’s 27 school divisions.

“The sentiment from our locally elected school board members has been clear that they do not want class size and complexity in a provincially negotiated agreement. The government agrees with that,” Education Minister Jeremy Cockrill said during question time.

“That’s the local voice in education.”

Education Minister Jeremy Cockrill speaks to reporters as Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation (STF) president Samantha Becotte looks at the clocks on March 7, 2024 (Wayne Mantyka/CTV News).

Both Cockrill and the Prime Minister have repeatedly claimed that the STF has only negotiated for 30 minutes in the last five months.

In his comments Thursday, Becotte refuted these claims.

“We had five full days of conciliation in December and whether the minister does not consider that negotiation or not is his prerogative,” he said.

“In terms of the last two days we had in February. I know we went into almost minute-by-minute detail about what that looked like. And again, I think the representatives at the table are not giving the Minister of Education a complete view or understanding of the negotiation process.”

The last time the two sides met at the negotiating table was on February 13.

The collective bargaining process began in May 2023. The STF declared impasses in both November and February.

The province’s teachers have been without a contract since August.

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