10/31/2013 06:23 EDT | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST

Saskatchewan teachers overwhelmingly reject tentative contract with province

REGINA - Saskatchewan teachers have rejected a tentative contract with the province.

The Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation says 73 per cent of 12,403 teachers who voted were against the deal.

The proposed agreement would have seen teachers get a 6.5 per cent increase over four years, including a 5.5 per cent salary increase and a one per cent lump sum payment over the first two years.

"Teachers have spoken clearly," federation president Colin Keess said in a news release Thursday.

"Teachers are looking for change in relationships and supports for teaching and learning."

The release says teachers face intense challenges at work including growing diversity in classrooms, issues of class composition and size and changes to curriculum and assessment.

It says recent changes to education legislation have also affected teacher workload.

The government says it was a strong offer.

"The government-trustee bargaining committee negotiated a fair, reasonable and competitive offer to the Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation that, if ratified would have resulted in its members being some of the highest paid teachers in the Western provinces," said committee spokeswoman Connie Bailey.

Both sides say they're going to go back to the bargaining table.

The teachers have been without a contract since the end of August.