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Sask. teachers start new 5-day countdown to job action


The Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation has started the clock ticking on a five-day countdown to further job action, but it's not saying if members will walk off the job.

The announcement comes the morning after a one-day strike that saw more than 13,000 teachers hit the picket line across the province.

"It is critical that this government start taking this process seriously and start seeing how serious teachers and the public are taking this," STF president Samantha Becotte said during a virtual news conference on Wednesday.

"Teachers don't want to be taking any sanction action. I can guarantee you teachers would have much rather been in their classrooms yesterday than out on the picket line in that extreme cold. But we cannot continue without knowing that they will have, our students will have, the adequate supports that they need."

Becotte said Monday's job action could be anything from withdrawing teachers from extra duties, work-to-rule measures or another strike. She said the STF will stand down if the province signals it's willing talk about additional issues in bargaining.

Five days before Tuesday's strike, the STF was clear that its members would be walking off the job, giving many families time to find child care.

However, this time around, Becotte only promised the STF would provide notice by the legally required 48-hour deadline for announcing job action.

Contract talks between the STF and the province ground to a halt during the fall over the issue of whether issues such as class size and support for students with complex needs could be negotiated at the bargaining table.

On Tuesday, with schools shut down for the STF strike, Saskatchewan education minister Jeremy Cockrill reiterated the province's stance that only compensation will be discussed at the bargaining table, calling it a "line in the sand."

Throughout this latest round of bargaining talks, the government has maintained that those items are best left to locally elected school boards.

"(If we include) management issues like classroom size, complexity in bargained agreement, why have school boards?" Cockrill asked rhetorically.

Becotte said in the STF's view, guaranteed minimum guidelines around class size and complexity wouldn't clash with the role of elected school boards.

"I don't know why this is the 'line in the sand' that they've drawn for this round of bargaining. Other other provincial organizations have negotiated around class complexity in various different ways," Becotte said.

"We can find a Saskatchewan solution to this article. It doesn't have to be taken from other provinces, but the fact that other provinces have it means that we can do it as well. We just have to have that political will."

In a statement, the Saskatchewan government said it was "disappointed" by the new five-day countdown and again touted a proposed seven per cent salary increase first offered last summer.

The statment also referenced a pair of trial programs announced last week ahead of the STF's first five-day notice, one to create eight "support" classrooms and another that funds teacher-proposed ideas to improve education.

"If they intend on expanding those pilot projects, or funding them appropriately to expand, I'm not sure why they are so afraid to include it within an agreement with teachers unless they just don't want to be held accountable to those commitments," Becotte said.

A Ministry of Labour conciliator stepped in after the union declared a bargaining impasse in October.

After a series of meetings between the two sides, the conciliator said that class size and complexity could potentially be bargainable items under Saskatchewan's framework but did not give specific direction.

Following the impasse declaration, 90 per cent of the union's members voted 95 per cent in favour of potential job action up to and including a strike.

The bargaining team that sits across from the table from the STF is comprised of government representatives and members of the Saskatchewan School Boards Association (SSBA), which represents the province's elected school boards.

The SSBA declined to comment on the ongoing barganing standoff "out of respect for the collective bargaining process."

"Local boards work within their means and the resources they are provided to offer high-quality education," the SSBA said in a statement.

"However, the provincial government is solely responsible for the funding of education." Top Stories

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