The Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation (STF) is taking action against the government over stalled contract talks.
The STF announced Monday teachers are withdrawing all voluntary and extracurricular services starting Thursday, March 12.
“If government isn’t going to meaningfully address the complexities that we’re seeing, then we have to take steps into our own hands and free teachers up to do the work that’s most important — and that’s providing children’s education during the school day,” STF president Patrick Maze said, noting teachers will have more time to mark and plan lessons.
The STF said teachers will also report to school and provide service no more than 15 minutes before the start of the school day. They’ll leave 15 minutes after class ends.
Supervision at recess, lunch and on the bus will take place within that timeframe.
“Teachers voted 90.2 per cent in favour of doing something in order to meaningfully address this and government still refuses,” Maze said.
“Until government steps up and … provides a meaningful fix, then this will be on until then.”
Maze is calling on students and teachers to express their concerns to their MLAs.
Saskatchewan Education Minister Gordon Wyant reiterated the government’s stance that classroom composition and complexity should not be discussed at the bargaining table.
“We’re disappointed in the fact that the STF … has walked away from the bargaining table. They walked away from conciliation and now they’re walking away from kids,” he said.
The STF has asked for $100 million over three years, Maze said. The money would help move additional support staff into the system, such as educational assistants, speech-language pathologists and student counsellors, he said.
Last week, the government offered $25 million over five years, which the STF would match, Wyant said. It would fund about 100 new positions yearly, he said.
“We can’t solve this problem overnight and I believe that the STF understands that,” Wyant said. “But just throwing a whole bunch of money at a problem isn’t going to solve it without having a strategic path forward and determining … what the systemic issues are.”
An impasse was reached in negotiations over class size and composition. School divisions across the province are struggling to support high-needs students, including those who have learning disabilities or are learning to speak English, Maze said.
“With the chronic underfunding, school divisions are having to choose winners and losers,” he said.
Additional supports are needed, including educational assistants, speech-language pathologists and student counsellors, he said.
The government has said the issue should not be discussed at the bargaining table.
“Saying that you’re trying to balance the books on the backs of our students is not acceptable to teachers right across the province and it shouldn’t be acceptable to parents either,” said Maze, who is calling on students and teachers to express their concerns with their MLAs.
Wyant said the province is concerned job action could escalate to a strike, which would not be in the best interest of students.
The government and union do not have any upcoming meetings.
“This is up to the STF at this point in time,” Wyant said. “We’ve extended the invitation to return to the bargaining table to talk about the new mandate. They’re not interested in talking to us about that.”
The parties met with a conciliation board in January in an effort to find common ground to move the talks forward. The STF said no progress was made over four days spent in conciliation, leading to the sanctions vote.
In a report released on Feb. 13, the board said class size and composition should not be part of the current contract negotiations.