After initially rejecting binding arbitration when it was first proposed by the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation in March, the provincial government is now floating the idea after teachers voted against accepting a tentative agreement that was reached earlier this month.  

Speaking to the media this morning, Education Minister Jeremy Cockrill said binding arbitration was possible. This proposal came about after the government originally declined arbitration when it was proposed by the STF in March.  

The president of the STF, Samantha Becotte, said they would first like to return to the negotiating table. 

“We would love to get back to the table and start negotiating with the government, provided that they give the GTBC (Government-Trustee Bargaining Committee) a renewed mandate to address classroom complexity,” Becotte said during a media conference this morning. “But, if they’re not willing to engage in those conversations and have that good faith back and forth conversation, then binding arbitration could be an option for a path forward.” 

The membership of the STF voted 55 percent against the tentative agreement that was reached earlier this month. Becotte noted that despite the recommendation of the STF executive to approve the agreement, the teachers made their voices heard with the vote. 

“This is a message to government that teachers have little trust in their commitments,” Becotte explained. “This is a direct result from our past experiences with committees where the final recommendations are dismissed and ignored, or promises that are never followed through, or provincial budgets that leave school divisions making difficult decisions on which supports to cut or reduce.” 

There have been no announced dates for a resumption of negotiations, although the STF stated they have invited the GTBC back to the table. No further job action has been announced as of yet. The STF has said they will provide 48-hour notice before any job action starts.  

The current labour situation between the provincial government and the teachers’ federation is now over a year old. Bargaining started in May of last year, with talks breaking down in August. In October, the STF declared an impasse and filed for conciliation. The membership also voted in favour of job action.  

The conciliation report supported the position of the federation that class size and complexity can be addressed through bargaining, however, the provincial government was adamant there would be no language concerning these issues in a collective agreement.  

In January, labour action started with a one-day walkout. Since then, there have been rotating strikes, along with rotating withdrawals of nonon-hour supervision and extracurricular activities. Work to rule was announced in early April, at which time negotiations led first to what was deemed a final offer, and after that was rejected, a tentative agreement, which was also rejected.