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Friday, 27 May 2011 10:13

Saskatchewan teachers returning to bargaining table

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By Chris Jaster — This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

The Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation has accepted the government's offer to return to the bargaining table.

According to Minister of Education Donna Harpauer, the teachers agreed to return to the table late yesterday and are busy trying to find a date where all of their representatives can get to Regina. Harpauer suspects bargaining may resume May 29 or 30.

The government announced yesterday, following a cabinet meeting on Wednesday where it discussed the teachers' labour issue, that it was wiling to bring more resources to the table. The STF followed that up by announcing teachers were withdrawing all voluntary services indefinitely. They followed that up by accepting the government's offer to return to the table.

"I was disappointed that before they agreed to come back that they announced there would be further job action," said Harpauer. "However, I'm still pleased that the second communication was they would come back.

"We're quite hopeful that a deal can be made. They obviously want to explore the additional resources we want to put on the table and we hope that we can settle this."

Saskatchewan's teachers have been without a contract since Aug. 31, 2010. They initially were asking for a 12 per cent increase in wages over one year, but the government was offering 5.5 per cent over three years. Negotiations were sent to conciliation, but that failed, leading the teachers to hold a one-day study session May 5.

The two sides returned to the table with the teachers asking for 16.3 per cent over three years or arbitration. The government countered with 6.2 per cent (including market adjustment) over three years and refused arbitration. That led the teachers to walk away from the table again. They held a two-day strike May 25-26.

Harpauer would not expand on what resources the government would bring to the table this time, but she said middle ground will have to be found as the government doesn't believe a 16.3 per cent increase is sustainable.

"We're still very hard that 16 per cent is not reasonable, so that hasn't changed," she said. "We think we can explore areas within the grid. We also think we need to revisit where we stand in Western Canada because Manitoba is now settling higher than we anticipated so we'll take a look at that and make improvements."

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