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Sask. teachers' union slams government 'attack ads' amid contract talks


The head of the union representing Saskatchewan's teachers is accusing the provincial government of utilizing "attack ads" in an attempt to undermine contract negotiations.

During a virtual news conference on Thursday, Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation (STF) president Samantha Becotte used the term to describe a billboard and digital advertising campaign that claims teachers make an average salary of $92,000.

"This average that they're using isn't accurate," Becotte said.

"I know there's lots of ways to calculate an average but beginning teachers in this province make about $60,000," she said.

She said that in order to reach the $92,000 mark, a teacher needs 10 years of experience and must meet additional education requirements.

The campaign also claims Saskatchewan teachers have the highest average salaries in Western Canada, a conclusion Becotte says was arrived at by "cherry picking" data.

While the ads focus on salary, Becotte said that pay rates are only a "small issue" on the table for the union during this round of negotiations.

"Salary is just one thing that we're having a conversation about. Teachers are demanding that this government starts addressing the increasing intensification in our schools and in our classrooms," Becotte said.

"Whether it's growing class sizes, or addressing the lack of resources that students have in schools — government continues to ignore these issues," Becotte.

According to Becotte, the STF and the Government-Trustee Bargaining Committee (GBTC) — a combination of government and school board representatives — have only met three times during the current round of bargaining.

"From a taxpayer perspective, in this province, we're seeing wasted dollars going towards these frivolous ads that really aren't serving any purpose other than to undervalue the teachers in this province," Becotte said.

"These are ads that we have never seen in our history in Saskatchewan when it comes to collective bargaining," she said.

A billboard near Estevan, Sask. publicizing to the government's salary offer to teachers. (Cole Davenport/CTV News)

Saskatchewan's Ministry of Education responded to CTV News in an emailed statement, saying the provincial government supports the bargaining committee with funding "including for public notification and information related to bargaining."

"As the STF communicates with those it is responsible to, so too does the GTBC," the statement said.

According to the ministry, the campaign will run in "digital and static formats" for the rest of the summer.

The province's decision to take the conversation outside of the boardroom and into the public sphere could upend things at the negotiating table, according to a labour expert.

"If you're teaching labour relations, bargaining and negotiations — we tend to say that's not good practice," said Rafael Gomez, director of the Centre for Industrial Relations and Human Resources at the University of Toronto.

"[By] keeping those issues tight and closed away, you empower the bargaining teams to do the best job possible … so it does kind of undermine the process at the table," Gomez told CTV News.

He also says the fact that the government is trying to publicly shape the narrative early in the process could be a sign of concerns about its own bargaining position.

"It impacts a lot of people's lives if the teachers aren't there in the classroom, so they have a lot of bargaining power," Gomez said.

"This could also be a sign of the employer's weakness, that it doesn't feel like it could get what it wanted just in the bargaining room — so it needed this extra help, if you will, mobilizing public opinion on its side." 

The current collective agreement is set to expire August 31. Top Stories

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