Possible teacher sanctions after Jan. 15: PAATA President

Kayle Neis/Regina Leader-Post. Minister of Education Jeremy Cockrill answers questions from the press after Question Period at the Saskatchewan Legislative Building on Thursday, October 12, 2023 in Regina.

Prince Albert and Area Teachers’ Association president Jean-Marc Belliveau says there will be no decision on teacher sanctions until the middle of the month.

The provincial government and Saskatchewan’s teachers are currently at an impasse after entering the conciliation process before Christmas. The Conciliator’s Report is due on Jan. 15, and Belliveau said that’s when the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation (STF) will decide on their next move.

“Even before negotiations, the teachers had voted 95 per cent for in favour of sanctions,” Bellieveau said. “The teachers have given their ability for the STF to put sanctions in place, but they are respecting the process. After the 15th, we’ll see where the recommendations are.”

The STF requested a conciliation board in October following their first sanctions announcement.

The provincial government and STF continued contract talks until Dec. 13, when they reached an impasse. Teachers have been seeking inclusion of a no-violence in classrooms clause and a confidential reporting mechanism, and action addressing class size and compositions, mental health and English language supports for students.

Belliveau said that per student funding in Saskatchewan was sixth in the country before negotiations began and has since dropped to eighth.

“It doesn’t put Saskatchewan in a very competitive position for educators,” he said.

Bellieveau said other provinces had concluded their bargaining including New Brunswick in September, which concluded with a 15 per cent increase over five years. The offer on the table is seven per cent increase to salary over three years, broken down to a three per cent pay raise in 2023 and two per cent in 2024 and 2025

The Government of Saskatchewan recently ran a billboard campaign showing the offer.

“If the government of Saskatchewan wants to keep up with inflation and per student funding, they will have to come up with a better plan than what was offered at the table,” Belliveau said.

He added that the number of students have steadily increased while the number of teachers in the province has dropped since 2013-2014, with the exception of 2020-2021 during the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. He said there has been an increase of 25,000 students or roughly 15 per cent.

“The number of full-time educators decreased by 15 so basically we got 25,000 more students to teach in 10 years and we lost 15 teachers to accomplish that task,” Belliveau said.

In December, Minister of Education Jeremy Cockrill told the Regina Leader-Post that classroom complexity is not something to be addressed at the contract level, but rather by school divisions.

Belliveau said he does not call it classroom complexity. He calls it properly funding inclusion.

“Inclusion works if it’s properly funded, but if it’s not there are going to be some problems,” he said.

“Education funding has not kept up with the needs of students in Saskatchewan schools,” he added. “(The) diverse needs of our students are growing, hence properly funded inclusion helps student success for sure.”

The Ministry of Education said in an email to the Herald in October that they are disappointed that the STF walked away from negotiations and is willing to impose sanctions that could impact students and their families.

The Ministry said they remain at the table ready to bargain and it is our hope that the STF will come back and resume negotiations.

Belliveau said the teachers are ready to bargain, but they need a willing partner.

“It’s the government’s turn to come back to the table and actually start negotiating,” he said. “There’s still a chance of no action being taken, but it’s the governments turn to have action of their own.”