STF escalates job action with various actions throughout this week

The STF announced another wave of rotating strikes over the weekend, including one in the North East School Division adjacent to Prince Albert.

The STF has job action planned for four of five days this week. The latest slate of job action and sanctions were announced on Monday. STF president Samantha Becotte said this marks an escalation on behalf of teachers.

“As we have communicated prior to the break, if Government and school boards don't start taking negotiations seriously our actions will continue to escalate,” Becotte said.

“Government and SSBA are remaining intransigent on their position that class complexity and violence in the classroom or any article around teacher working conditions, which are our students' learning conditions, cannot be included within provincial Collective Agreement.”

In addition to the job action, Becotte said 62,000 pieces of correspondence have been sent to MLAs at the behest of the STF.

By law, 48 hours’ notice is required for job action; however, Becotte said they are providing extra time to allow families to make necessary arrangements. She also said they are escalating things in an attempt to get the government back to the bargaining table.

“Teachers have taken more job action this year than we have in any round of provincial collective bargaining,” said Becotte.

“The issues that we're talking about with class size and class complexity aren't isolated to a single area in the province. They are in classrooms and in schools in every area across Saskatchewan.” When asked about how the rotating strikes will impact students, Becotte said that parents continue to support the STF.

“We understand that these actions are creating an impact and creating challenges for families across the province, but I think at the core of it parents continue to support teachers and members of Saskatchewan continue to support teachers because we are fighting for not just public education. We are fighting for better supports for every single child across our province.”

Becotte reiterated that all options remain open as teachers try to get government back to the table.

“I guess a better question would be why is it taking this significant amount of action?” Becotte said.

The classroom complexity issue was also a sticking point in 2020 negotiations, which the STF and Government settled after the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We shouldn't be at this point,” Becotte said. “We have brought this up in negotiations over the last two rounds of our contract negotiations here in Saskatchewan. This has been created over a decade of budget increases that are below the rate of inflation and that don't adequately address our growing enrolment.”

Education Minister Jeremy Cockrill and the government is willing to annualize $53.1 million in funding to “provide assurances between the parties” that, outside of bargaining, the government “will commit to annualized funding to address class size and composition,” through a memorandum of understanding.

“Without a commitment in the collective agreement, where the government can be held accountable to this renewed investment, once contract negotiations are resolved or public pressure subsides, the Saskatchewan Party will claw back any increased funding that they provide in the upcoming budget,” said Becotte.

On top of job action already planned for Monday through Wednesday, withdraw of noon-hour supervision at schools included in the Chinook Teachers’ Association, Creighton Teachers’ Association, Lloydminster Teachers’ Association, North East Teachers’ Association and Prairie Spirit Teachers’ Association will take place Thursday.

Over the weekend, the STF announced further job action including a rotating strike, and rotating withdrawal of noon-hour supervision and extracurricular activities to take place at select schools on Tuesday.

The rotating strikes impacts all schools in the Chinook School Division, Ile à la Crosse School Division, Lloydminster Public School Division, Lloydminster Catholic School Division, Northwest School Division and Prairie Valley School Division. It also involves teachers from Association des enseignantes et enseignants fransaskois — École Boréale in Ponteix and Saskatchewan Distance Learning Centre’s North West and South West campuses.

The rotating withdraw of noon hour supervision affects all schools in the Holy Trinity Catholic School Division, Horizon School Division, North East School Division, Regina Catholics Schools and South East Cornerstone School Division.

Extracurricular activities will be withdrawn at all schools in the Creighton School Division, Horizon School Division, Prairie South School Division, Regina Catholic Schools and Regina Public Schools.

On Sunday, the STF also announced the withdraw of noon hour supervision and the withdraw of extracurricular activities at select schools on Wednesday.

The withdraw of noon-hour supervision will affect schools in Christ the Teacher Catholic School Division, Ile à la Crosse School Division, Prairie Valley School Division, Regina Public Schools and Sun West School Division.

Withdrawal of extracurricular activities on Wednesday will affect schools in Ile à la Crosse School Division, Prairie Valley School Division, Good Spirit School Division, all Saskatchewan Distance Learning Centre campuses, and Living Sky School Division and Light of Christ Catholic School Division and Sakewew High School.

Ministry of Education emailed at statement to the Daily Herald saying the Government Trustee Bargaining Committee (GTBC) extended invitations every day last week to the STF to come back to the bargaining table where negotiators had been waiting and were ready to engage in meaningful discussion.

“It’s unfortunate that the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation (STF) senior leadership continues to choose job action over getting a deal done on behalf of teachers, students and families,” the message reads.

The government says it has moved on a number of items that the STF asked for, including a renewed salary mandate and workplace safety enhancements. The STF has refused to move off their initial proposals, including a 23.4 per cent salary increase.

They added that since October, the STF has been at the bargaining table for a total of 30 minutes.

Teachers and students should be in the classroom, and the teachers’ union should be at the bargaining table.

Michael Oleksyn, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, Prince Albert Daily Herald