Government’s Insistence on Binding Arbitration Stalls Talks With Teachers

Saskatchewan schools are heading towards the end of the school year – with the clock now ticking down to graduations and and of the year celebrations. Now it appears that the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation (STF) is at a deadlock with the government bargaining committee. The Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation (STF) has declared a work-to-rule campaign starting Monday. This decision follows a negotiation session held on Wednesday, where the STF expressed frustration over the government’s insistence on binding arbitration as the only solution. According to the STF, this stance indicates a lack of commitment to addressing the urgent needs of students in Saskatchewan.

In a release STF President Samantha Becotte said that teachers are dedicated to negotiating a deal that prioritizes students’ needs. However, the government’s singular focus on binding arbitration has left the STF with no choice but to take action. “Teachers are engaged and are committed to reaching a negotiated deal that will ensure students’ needs can be met,” Becotte stated. “Government’s singular focus and insistence on binding arbitration shows that it is unwilling to adequately address the urgent needs of Saskatchewan students.”

The work-to-rule action means teachers will restrict their duties to those specified in their contracts. This entails no voluntary services, such as lunch supervision, and a strict adherence to working hours—starting 15 minutes before the bell rings and ending 15 minutes after. Extracurricular activities including sports, drama, music, band, science clubs, intramurals, rehearsals, student leadership activities, planning for book fairs, and other clubs will be suspended.

The government responded by highlighting its proposal for both parties to jointly request binding arbitration. This process involves submitting proposals to an independent arbitrator, who would then create a binding contract. However, the STF declined this offer, preferring to seek a negotiated settlement that better addresses their concerns.

As the work-to-rule action commences, the impact on students and the broader school community remains to be seen. Education Minister Jeremy Cockrill has not ruled out the possibility of extending the school year to make up lost time. Cockrill has also suggested that steps will be taken to ensure graduating students are able to have ceremonies at the end of the year despite job action from the province’s teachers.

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