Mixture of frustration and optimism as Prince Albert teachers hit the picket line for rotating strike

Prince Albert teachers hold up signs and wave to passing drivers as the first day of the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation rotating strike hit Prince Albert on Feb. 1, 2024. -- Jason Kerr/Daily Herald

Teachers are prepared for a long strike if that’s what needs to happen get a better offer from the government.

That was the message Prince Albert teachers sought to deliver as they lined Second Avenue East in the Cornerstone Business District Thursday morning and afternoon for the first day of a planned rotating strike.

Prince Albert and Area Teachers’ Federation (PAATA) president Jean-Marc Belliveau said teachers would strike “as long as it takes” to get the government back at the bargaining table. Belliveau said most teachers were optimistic a deal would get done, but frustration was setting in.

“We were left with no choice,” Belliveau said when asked about the rotating strike. “We have to do something and they’re still not listening to what teachers want: properly funded education. So, here we are again trying to make them listen.”

“I’m optimistic that something will happen,” he added. “These actions will help towards negotiations, I’m sure. We are just waiting to have the government come back to the table with a mandate that is different from their only offer.”

Prince Albert was one of five communities on Thursday that saw local teachers leave the classroom for a one-day strike. Teachers in Moose Jaw, Humboldt, North Battleford, and Assiniboia all participated in the event.

The Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation (STF) said the strike involved seven local associations, representing roughly 3,000 teachers and affecting around 35,000 students.

The strike affected all Prince Albert Catholic and Saskatchewan Rivers Public School Division schools, along with Saskatchewan Distance Learning Centre (SDLC) teachers who work in the region.

Laura Olver, a pre-kindergarten teacher at St. John Community School, was one of many Prince Albert teachers on the picket line. She also felt a mixture of frustration and optimism as the one-day strikes continued.

“I wish that our voices would be heard, and I feel for the kids in these times,” Olver said. “They don’t know what’s going on, and we don’t know.

“It might take them (the government) a while, but I know they will come out on our side in the end,” she added.

Thursday’s one-day strike was the third since the STF and provincial government reached a standstill. However, the war of words continued online, and union and government representatives took to social media to make their case.

STF president Samantha Becotte joined striking teachers in North Battleford on Thursday. She later posted to X, formerly known as Twitter, that teachers had a simple message for the government.

“We’ve had a decade—a generation!—of kids who haven’t received the supports that they truly need,” she wrote. “Get back to the table. Start making real commitments.”

Meanwhile, former Education Minister and current Saskatoon Southeast MLA Don Morgan posted a graph on X calling claims that nothing has been done to address class size and complexity a myth.

School Divisions have received $53.1 million to directly address those concerns, Morgan’s post reads, while the education school operating budget has increased 47 per cent since 2007, outpacing the enrolment increase of 16 per cent.