'We have to take steps into our own hands': Sask. teachers to cease voluntary extracurriculars Thursday
SASKATOON -- The Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation (STF) says its members will stop providing voluntary or extracurricular services starting Thursday.
STF President Patrick Maze shared the news Monday morning during a media conference at the federation's office in Saskatoon.
“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 be able to focus on the work that’s most important and that’s providing children’s education during the school day.”
Under the sanction, teachers will report to school and provide professional service no more than 15 minutes before or 15 minutes after the school day.
The STF said teachers will continue to provide student supervision at recess and lunch as well as bus supervision during these specified times.
They will also provide regular duties during the school day but events scheduled beyond the school day will not be supported by teachers.
Maze said he acknowledges that this sanction will affect students and parents.
“We hope, first of all, to the government that they recognize that they have a responsibility to fund education. And that the chronic under-funding that has occurred is not acceptable, and seeing 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. Parents should be joining us and be demanding that their children receive a quality education,” Maze said.
On Feb. 24, 90 per cent of STF members voted in favour of sanctions which could lead to job action such as rotating strikes and the withdrawal of voluntary services such as afterschool coaching.
Talks between the two sides resumed March 5 to find a path back to the bargaining table.
“It’s concerning for me because I do a lot of extracurriculars, I barely have a free lunch hour. So, it’s going to be a big issue,” said Blake Kemmer, a student at Bedford Road Collegiate.
Omair Khan, another student said, "I'm so glad that teachers went out of their way to avoid a strike and take up little steps before they got to drastic steps, so I really appreciate that."
Education Minister Gordon Wyant said he is disappointed about the sanctions.
"The idea here is to make sure that we protect the best interest of kids, to continue to provide them with the best educational opportunities. And I think when you take services away from children, that's not good for children, it's not good for teachers, it's not good for parents. So, our hope is, as I've mentioned before, that the STF returns to the bargaining table to start to talk in earnest with respect to the important issues that we have before us,” he said.
Wyant said he is concerned that this could escalate into a full strike.
He said no meetings have been scheduled between the two sides, but said he invites the STF to come back to the bargaining table.
"We have made a new offer to the teachers, we are prepared to table that at the committee. So it's the union that's walked away from these negotiations, it's the union that's walked away from the children in our classrooms and that's disappointing,” he said.
The previous collective agreement between the provincial government and the STF expired last year on Aug. 31.
The sanction will remain in effect until further notice.
Maze said the STF remains focused on negotiating an agreement that addresses student need and is deemed acceptable by teachers.