After months of back and forth between the Saskatchewan Teacher's Federation (STF) and the Provincial Government, the countdown to a teacher's strike has begun. In a press release made by the STF on Thursday morning, it was announced that a one-day general strike will take place across the province on Tuesday, January 16th. By law, it is required to provide a minimum 48 hours' notice before staging a walkout, but the STF opted for a 5-day warning to allow parents and caregivers more time to arrange for childcare. This additional notice also provides the Provincial Government with an opportunity to change their current stance before Job Action takes place.
The move comes after months of negotiations between the STF and the Government, and a vote in October that showed an overwhelming call for sanctions by teachers. Should the Government change course and allow their negotiations committee to bargain on the key issues raised by the STF before January 16th, the countdown will be stopped and committees will return to the bargaining table.
The core issues presented by the STF during negotiations are class sizes and the complexity of classes, which a report made by the Conciliation Board confirms are addressable through negotiations. Teachers had hoped that a Conciliation report confirming that these key issues could be solved through negotiation could prevent the need for Job Action, but the Government still refused to bargain on class sizes and complexity.
“The last thing any teacher wants is for negotiations to impact the school year, so we are exhausting every possible option to get government back to the table,” says Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation President Samantha Becotte. “At every turn, teachers have said that committees are getting us nowhere on these urgent issues, and a new deal must include items to address class size and complexity. Government remains intransigent, even after conciliation. This is not bargaining; they are making decisions based on politics and student learning is suffering for it.”
A virtual Parent and Caregiver Information Night is being held at 7 p.m. on Sunday, January 14, before the single-day strike set to take place next Tuesday, January 16th. This information night aims to provide parents and caregivers with information regarding the status of contract negotiations, STF proposals, and the potential for Job Action in Saskatchewan. The hope is that negotiations will resume before January 16th, but the STF has said that more Job Action will follow if an agreement is not made with the Provincial Government soon.
“Teachers and parents are united in wanting the best for their kids,” says Becotte. “We want to provide families with as much information as possible. This is a fight for the future of publicly funded education in Saskatchewan, and schools need the support of our communities. I encourage everyone across the province to reach out to your neighbours and friends, contact your elected officials, and let them know that the students of this province deserve a government that will provide them with the resources they desperately need.”
We will have more on this as it becomes available.