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Saskatchewan teachers to strike for one day


Teachers across Saskatchewan will strike for one day next week as a contract standoff continues.

Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation (STF) president Samantha Becotte announced the planned walk-off during a virtual news conference Thursday morning.  

"Unfortunately, government continues to refuse to make any agreement directly with teachers that provides improvements to schools and classrooms," Becotte said.

Becotte said teachers will strike province-wide on Tuesday, Jan. 16. While legally the union only requires 48 hours notice to begin job action, an STF news release said teachers wanted to provide parents and caregivers more notice.

The advanced notice is also meant to give time for the province to come back to the bargaining table to discuss a wider-range of issues, Becotte said. 

The strike announcement comes after the release of a third-party conciliator's report which suggested teachers and the provincial government "could choose to bargain class size and complexity" — something the government has insisted is not up for negotiation, preferring to focus on compensation.

The difference of opinion on whether to include the issue has become a significant roadblock during negotiations.

Following the release of the conciliator's findings on Monday, the government indicated that it has no plans to change course on the issue.

"If government is willing to discuss longer-term commitments to address class complexity, teachers will return to the table," Becotte said. 

As for the added costs such contractually negotiated changes might bring, Becotte argues the government has deep enough pockets to foot the bill.

"Government has the ability to fund public education there shouldn't be a question about that. When you look at the Premier's twitter feed it is talking about how great Saskatchewan is and the prosperity in the province and how we are leading the country," Becotte said.

The STF asked a Ministry of Labour conciliator to step in after declaring a bargaining impasse in October, because the union felt there was no way forward in its negotiations with the province.

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.

In an emailed statement, education minister Jeremy Cockrill said the government bargaining team is "disappointed" following the strike announcement and that it "remains at the bargaining table, ready to talk."

"We know that disrupting learning is not what is in the best interest of students and that deals are reached at the bargaining table, not on the picket line," Cockrill said.

The minister again pointed to a proposed salary increase of seven per cent over three years, an offer the government publicly touted on billboards and through online ads shortly after bargaining began during the summer.

The strike notice comes the same week as a pair of government education announcements.

On Monday the province said it will run a pilot project, creating eight "specialized support" classrooms, each with up to 15 students at urban school divisions.

That was followed by the mid-week announcement of a $2.5 million "teacher innovation" fund, running through the end of the 2024-25 school year. Teachers can pitch ideas to improve education and receive anywhere from $10,000 to $75,000 to roll out the plans in schools.

Becotte accused the province of trying to sidestep the bargaining process and noted that the short-term programs come during an election year.

"We have seen before where those election promises go away very quickly and we see further reductions to support in schools," Becotte told CTV News on Thursday.

Shortly after the STF's strike announcement, school divisions started sending messages to parents advising that classes will be cancelled on Tuesday.

While the walk-off is scheduled for a single day, in its note to parents and caregivers, the Regina School Division suggested parents start thinking about the days and weeks ahead.

"Given the range of potential actions, we advise families to think about alternative transportation and/or childcare plans," the message said.

--This is a developing story, more details to come. Top Stories

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