Contract dispute between Sask. teachers, province heading to binding arbitration

The long-running contract dispute between the provincial government and Saskatchewan's teachers is coming to an end.

The Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation (STF) announced Friday it will take part in binding arbitration with the provincial government on two topics: teacher's pay and a classroom complexity-accountability framework.

The decision comes after the STF consulted with teachers across the province this week through a town hall, a survey and meetings with internal advisory groups, said STF president Samantha Becotte.

"This has been a challenging school year, but teachers have always put the needs of all of their current students and future students first," Becotte said during a news conference.

Binding arbitration means both sides will have to agree to an expert arbitrator. The two sides will then provide submissions on their positions about wages and a class complexity-accountability framework.

The independent arbitrator will make a final, binding decision.

"I'm confident that we'll be able to present a very strong compelling case to ensure that we do see improvements and protections around teachers' working conditions and our students' learning conditions, which is I think what everyone wants to see," said Becotte.

Samantha Becotte is the president of the Saskatchewan Teachers Federation and she said that while extracurricular is important, it is extra to the core business that we have in education.
Samantha Becotte is the president of the Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation. On Friday, she said she wished the dispute had ended earlier through the negotiation process. (Cory Herperger/CBC)

Everything else in the collective agreement has already been agreed to, Becotte confirmed

The search for an arbitrator will begin immediately but it's not clear how long the process will take. Becotte said it could be months before the arbitrator's decision is made.

How Saskatchewan got here

Teachers have been without a contract since August 2023.

After negotiations on a new collective agreement reached a standstill, teachers imposed sanctions — including rotating strikes — starting in January. That led to a contract offer that was rejected by teachers in May. A second offer was rejected later that month.

This week, teachers took more job action, engaging in work-to-rule by withdrawing from voluntary services and noon-hour supervision.

That job action ends as of 4 p.m. CST on Friday.

Becotte said the government provided written confirmation that classroom complexity will be in the scope of arbitration, referring to a revised offer brought to the table on June 8.

The Education Ministry refuted that claim on Wednesday and, in an email Friday, said its stance had not changed.

In an emailed statement, Education Minister Jeremy Cockrill said he's pleased the STF is agreeing to binding arbitration.

"Binding arbitration will provide predictability in the lives of students, families and teachers as the school year comes to an end, all while allowing for a path to the finalization of a new provincial collective agreement," Cockrill said.

Becotte reflected on the nearly yearlong process that is nearly over.

"I would have loved to see a resolution earlier within this process to make sure that we have improved supports for students as soon as possible. That's what we have been asking for," she said.