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Saskatchewan schools see job actions reach higher tempo

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Saskatchewan teachers are escalating the pace of job actions as students prepare to return to classrooms following a week-long break.

The Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation (STF) says another batch of school divisions will see members withdraw lunch time supervision and extracurricular activities on Wednesday, one day after a round of rotating strikes the organization announced on Saturday.

“Although teachers, including principals and vice-principals, often provide lunch break supervision, it is done on a voluntary basis,” the STF said in a news release on Sunday.

“Student supervision is the responsibility of the school division.”

Students in the Île-à-la-Crosse, Prairie Valley, Regina Public and Sun West school divisions will be affected by the withdrawal of lunch time supervision.

On Wednesday, members will also withdraw from voluntary participation in extracurricular programs in the Île-à-la-Crosse, Prairie Valley, Good Spirit Living Sky, and Light of Christ Catholic school divisions, all distance learning campuses, and Sakewew High School in North Battleford.

The action is a smaller scale version of the province-wide withdrawal the union is planning for Monday.

Teachers who provide “voluntary leadership” of all sports, non-curricular drama, music and band, science clubs, intramurals, planning for graduation celebrations, book fairs and other clubs will not be available, according to the STF.

Wednesday’s actions will mark the third consecutive day of sanctions by Saskatchewan teachers as students return from a week-long school break.

STF President Samantha Becotte warned on Feb. 16 that teachers would “escalate” job actions after the February break if the province remained unwilling to discuss issues such as class size and the complex needs of students at the bargaining table.

Education Minister Jeremy Cockrill has consistently described class size and composition as a “line in the sand” best dealt with by the school divisions, preferring to shift the discussion to salary.

To underscore the challenging working conditions teachers face, last week the union brought forward numerous stories of violence in the classroom.

The union says students have been left without essential behavioural and mental health supports, and teachers are struggling to manage.

In a statement on Friday, the Ministry of Education said the Government-Trustee Bargaining Committee extended invitations every day of the last week to the STF to come back to the bargaining table.

"Unfortunately, the union continues to choose job action over bargaining," the statement read.

The government says they moved on a number of items the STF asked for, including "a renewed salary mandate and workplace safety enhancements."

"Outside of bargaining, the government has proposed an agreement with the STF to annualize the $53.1 million in additional funding for class size and complexity."

The STF has pointed out the class size and complexity agreement was offered outside of the collective bargaining process and is legally unenforceable.

Saskatchewan’s teachers' last contract expired in August 2023. Initial bargaining began in May of 2023 with the STF declaring impasses in October and again in February.

-With files from Drew Postey 

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