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Saskatchewan teachers to strike on provincial budget day

A provincewide teacher strike will take place on Wednesday with extracurricular activities being pulled across the province Thursday and Friday. Andrew Benson / Global News

A one-day provincewide strike will take place on Wednesday at the Saskatchewan legislature as part of ongoing teacher job action.

The Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation said this falls in line with the announcement of the provincial budget and is meant to send a message to the Sask. Party government.

“Government’s unwillingness to work with teachers in finding any path forward has forced this decision, which will impact students and communities both big and small across the province,” STF president Samantha Becotte says.

Click to play video: 'Post-secondary educators show support for STF job action and bargaining fight'
Post-secondary educators show support for STF job action and bargaining fight

“Teachers have done their part to avoid more job action. We have bargained in good faith, and we have been clear that our opening proposals are only a starting point for discussion. We invited government to take part in binding arbitration on the single issue of class size and complexity, but the education minister rejected the offer within hours. The refusal of (Education) Minister (Jeremy) Cockrill and Premier (Scott) Moe to compromise are to blame for the strike and students’ loss of extracurricular activities in the days to come.”

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The STF expects more than 4,000 teachers at the legislature and hundreds more at demonstrations across the province.

Two days of extracurricular activities being pulled across the province will take place on Thursday and Friday as well, which the STF said will affect Hoopla, the provincial high school basketball championship in Moose Jaw, as well as the Optimist Band Festival in Regina.

“Extracurricular activities are an incredibly valuable part of the school experience for both students and teachers, but the education of children and youth is always our first priority,” Becotte says. “We can no longer watch the decline of our students’ learning environment while government ignores reality and refuses to make a commitment to predictable, sustainable funding for prekindergarten to Grade 12 education.”

Click to play video: 'STF calls province’s education budget announcement ‘latest unprecedented stunt’'
STF calls province’s education budget announcement ‘latest unprecedented stunt’

Becotte said she saw the potential of this job action causing them to lose some support from the public, but said much of the public recognizes that these issues in education need to be addressed.

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There is a risk of losing that public support.”

She said while the job action announced Monday will be impacting more people, she has seen and heard from people who say these issues within education need to be addressed in the long term.

The STF called on the government Thursday to “agree to binding arbitration to address the contentious issues of class size and complexity.”

Binding arbitration would involve a submission of the dispute to a neutral party, who would provide recommendations to the province and the union.

Within a few hours the provincial government shut down the proposal.

“I think school boards understand their school communities best,” Education Minister Jeremy Cockrill said.

“I think school divisions want to find ways to support students and teachers, but they need to have the autonomy to do that in their local school communities.”

When asked about the teacher strike on Wednesday, Premier Scott Moe pointed to the additional funding that was being announced in the provincial budget for education as his proof that the government is aiming to invest in education.

“We’re trying to ensure that the government is finding these points of collaboration as best we can, to get the union back to the table, and to ensure that kids can remain in the classroom and so our kids can remain participating in their extracurricular events,” Moe said Monday.

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— with Files from Global News’ Andrew Benson

 

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