The question is no longer if the Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation will take job action, but when. Last Friday, the results from the vote by the members of the STF were announced - 90 percent of the members cast a ballot, and 95 percent of those were in favour of sanctions.
The STF's bargaining committee and the provincial government started negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement earlier in the year. Earlier this month, the teachers declared an impasse, stating the government wasn't willing to negotiate on nine of the ten proposals. With the declaration of the impasse, the STF also requested conciliation to move forward.
When asked to comment on the results of the vote, the Ministry of Education declined an interview but did issue a written response. In the response, they stated they were disappointed the STF had walked away from negotiations and was willing to impose sanctions that could impact students and their families.
"At the request of the STF, a conciliation board will be established in the coming weeks to assist the bargaining committees in reaching a new collective agreement," the statement continued. "We remain at the table ready to bargain and it is our hope the STF will come back and resume negotiations."
At a press conference in Saskatoon to announce the results, the president of the STF, Samantha Becotte, had some strong words for the government.
"It is truly sad that our relationship with the current government has deteriorated so badly that a sanctions vote is even required," Becotte said in the address. "All of this is so unnecessary, wasteful, and disruptive to students, families and teachers. It creates uncertainty for teachers and students in classrooms across the province, and trust me, every single chance I get I will be repeating an important message: This is on government, not on teachers."
One of the key issues the teachers have been calling for to be included in the CBA is class size and composition. The government has repeatedly said they do not want that included in the CBA and should be addressed by the various divisions. Teachers are also calling for a salary proposal that keeps pace with the rate of inflation, language in the CBA that deals with violence in the classroom and guarantees of teacher autonomy as outlined in the Education Act.
The STF is also calling for increased funding for schools in general, noting the current level of funding has not kept pace with the rate of inflation, with many divisions needing to make cuts in order to balance the budget while at the same time dealing with growing class sizes.
This isn't the first time the Saskatchewan Party government has had to deal with possible job action by teachers. In 2020, during the negotiations for the CBA that just expired this past August, teachers withdrew all voluntary services, which included extracurricular activities. The agreement before that was reached through binding arbitration, and the one prior to that through conciliation.
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