A difference in language on the offer that will be going to the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation membership early next month. The STF issued a release late Wednesday stating the offer was a final offer from the Government-Trustee Bargaining Committee, while a release from the provincial government shortly afterwards called it a tentative agreement.  

The announcement came after two days of what the STF called difficult negotiations, with the two sides still far apart on certain issues.  

“The GTBC opened the two days with a return to their opening salary proposals they had posted on billboards across Saskatchewan back in July at the beginning of our bargaining round,” STF president Samantha Becotte said to the media Thursday morning. This was a stark change from a previous offer, which had been mentioned by several MLAs as a sign the government was willing to move on issues. The offer extended during the negotiations earlier this week would see the wages increase by three per cent in the first year, three per cent in the second, and two per cent in the third.  

In late February, it was announced the government was offering the STF a wage increase formula based on what is received by MLAs. The formula received by MLAs sees their pay increase on April 1st every year by the consumer price index for the previous year, capped at three per cent. This was not included in the agreement. 

The offer did include one key thing the STF had been saying would need to be included in any agreement – a sentence that there would be an accountability framework, which would be followed and honoured, for funding to help support class size and complexity. Many of the items the STF wanted included, according to Becotte, would be outside of the agreement in what was called a letter of undertaking.  

“This letter would contain items outside of bargaining that would address some of the proposals that teachers have brought forward,” Becotte explained to the media. “Unfortunately, as we have talked about with concerns around items outside of bargaining with classroom complexity, anything within the letter of undertaking would be non-binding and there is no dispute resolution process.” 

The details of the offer that was put forward, which will go to the membership for a vote on May 8th and 9th, weren’t shared with the media, but Becotte noted they will be sharing the details with the membership so they will be able to make a decision. Becotte also said the executive of the STF would not be making any recommendations on the offer to the membership, either.  

“We deal in facts, and there are several facts to consider within the offer that comes from the GTBC, as well as the items within the letter of undertaking that is outside of the agreement,” Becotte explained. She went on to say there are other factors in determining which way the vote will go, such as the individual situations of various teachers, and the collective situation within education.  

“Teachers are intelligent, they are critical, and they are dedicated and engaged in this process, and I know that they will make the right decision, regardless of what it ends up to be. Their vote, their voice, is the most important within this process.” 

While details of what was included in the letter of undertaking outside of the agreement weren’t disclosed, Becotte did provide some hints about it. On prior occasions, the provincial government had stated they had moved on issues like workplace safety enhancements and giving control of the dental plan for the STF to the federation.  

“The majority of those action items are going to fall into the letter of undertaking, and as I said, those aren’t binding agreements and there’s no dispute resolution process to them,” Becotte explained. She added the best place to make a commitment about something is to put it into the agreement, as that is a sign a party has no intention of walking back on the commitment.  

The vote that is scheduled for the STF will be the first vote held by the membership since the vote on whether or not there would be job action taken, which happened back in October. Since then, the two sides have gone to conciliation. The conciliation report was tabled in January, and the STF opted to take job action shortly afterwards when the recommendations from the conciliator were not acted on.  

Since then, further negotiations have broken down, and job action escalated to a full work-to-rule campaign that started on April 8th. The job action was suspended pending the outcome of negotiations.  

While this has been called a final offer, at this time the STF has not stated if they will be returning to job action if the offer is rejected by the membership. As well, the provincial government has not stated as of yet what their next steps will be if the offer is not accepted.