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Saskatchewan Education Minister Jeremy Cockrill speaks to members of the media after the release of the Saskatchewan budget in Regina, on March 20.Heywood Yu/The Canadian Press

Saskatchewan teachers could return to the bargaining table as early as next week to work out their labour dispute with the province.

Samantha Becotte, president of the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation, told reporters Thursday she’s encouraged by a draft memorandum of understanding from the government.

The document promises teachers a voice in how school divisions allocate funding. It includes a reporting mechanism to track how dollars are being spent.

Becotte said the union plans to work over the weekend so it can resume bargaining with the government next week.

“Talking about the need for teacher voices to be included in the decision-making process, that is important to have,” she said.

“It’s not ideal, it’s not a perfect solution, but it is a step forward and something that we'll be able to build on in future years and future rounds of negotiation.”

Education Minister Jeremy Cockrill told reporters he believes the document addresses teachers’ concerns over classroom sizes and other supports.

The federation has said it wants those items in the collective agreement. The province does not.

“This has been a long process and at times a frustrating one,” Cockrill said Thursday. “The teachers have asked for a number of items from government, and we have agreed and offered many of those.”

Becotte said the federation wants a dispute mechanism in the memorandum to ensure money earmarked for student supports actually goes there.

The document says dispute resolution mechanisms won’t be available. It also says local teachers’ associations would only serve in an advisory capacity and hold no decision-making power.

Cockrill blamed the federation for launching job action this month that led to the cancellation of Hoopla, a popular provincial basketball tournament.

Students in Saskatoon have also seen their trip to Europe scrapped.

Cockrill said the province would ensure graduation ceremonies can go ahead if job action is called.

He couldn’t provide details on the plan, but said the government is working with school boards so students can walk the stage.

Becotte said the province could have prevented past job action had it agreed to bargain on classroom sizes and other supports.

“Our ideal is we don’t have sanctions at all. We are doing everything we can to have sanctions end,” she said.

“With the minister’s comments about putting in resources to ensure there’s graduation, (the government) should be putting that time and energy into our negotiation process.”

The Saskatchewan Party government has touted record spending on education in this year’s budget, which includes a promise of $46 million more for classroom supports. The government has signed a separate agreement with school boards to allocate those dollars.

The federation has said the additional money doesn’t keep up with higher inflation and increased student enrolment.

It has also questioned whether the government will commit to that funding in the future, noting the province has made cuts in the past after promising more money.

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