Prince Albert teachers hit the streets for 2nd 1-day strike

Michael Oleksyn/Daily Herald Teachers walked the picket line on 15th Street for their second one-day strike on Monday.

Prince Albert teachers were back on 15th Street on Monday for the second one-day strike by the Saskatchewan Teacher’s Federation (STF).

The STF says the provincial government still refuses to give their bargaining committee a new mandate to negotiate on class sizes and complexity, which led to a second one-day strike across the province.

Jean-Marc Belliveau, President of the Prince Albert and Area Teachers’ Association (PAATA) said he was happy with the community’s response to their second strike.

“I think we are getting tons of support from the community,” Belliveau said. “It’s unreal how many people are honking and showing solidarity. That’s good.

Belliveau said holding a second one-day strike showed that teachers were serious about their concerns, and he hoped the government got the message.

“We want to get that government to get back to the table,” he said.

“It just shows that teachers mean business work we’re willing to walk in –30 C to make our point.”

Belliveau argued the government was steering the discussion towards salaries while the union is focusing on the non-negotiation of other items like classroom complexity. 

“It’s not all about salary,” he said. “We want what’s best for our kids. We spend all day with these kids. These students are basically our families, so we want what’s best for these kids.”

Belliveau said that there was a similar number of people on the picket line compared to the first one-day strike on Tuesday, Jan. 16.

“I have seen some support from CUPE and other unions as well. There’s even just the general public out walking with us, so good support,” he said.

The conciliator’s report released on Jan. 8 encourages the two sides to “keep talking” on the matter of class complexity. Belliveau said the STF wants the government back at the table, but he’s uncertain what the next step would be if this one-day strike didn’t get the government to negotiate.

“It’s out of my control,” he said.

The STF has accused the Government of cutting $2,517/per student from education funding, landing the province in eighth place in Canada. Belliveau said the drop-in funding is unacceptable.

The strategy for Monday was similar to that of the first one-day strike. Teachers and their supporters gathered in the Cornerstone area in front of Saskatchewan Party MLA’s office along 15th Street East.

The STF says more than 18,000 emails and phone calls have been sent to Education Minister Jeremy Cockrill, Premier Scott Moe, and other MLAs over the last two weeks.

“If they continue to flat-out refuse to bargain on class size and complexity, which are the learning conditions for Saskatchewan’s students, we will have no choice but to continue to exercise the only options we have left to bring them back into discussions.” STF President Samantha Becotte said in a press release.

Saskatchewan Rivers School Division director of education Neil Finch said on Tuesday, Jan. 16 that the division was prepared for the first one-day strike and will be prepared for a full strike if it happens.

“We will respond to whatever comes our way,” Finch said. “The STF was really good with giving more than 48 hours notice, so as long as that continues on it gives us time to plan.

“We will respond to whatever comes our way in regards to the job action,” he added.

The Prince Albert Catholic School Division also released letters in advance of Tuesday’s first strike and again for Monday’s second one-day strike. Director of Education Lorel Trumier said that the division received notice on Wednesday that some type of action was forthcoming on Jan. 22.

“We had no sooner sent information out to parents today about being prepared for situations where teachers would withdraw their services in some areas or a provincial-wide strike that we had to prepare them for anything on that continuum,” Trumier said.

Trumier said that the division had already cancelled extracurricular activities before the notice by the STF. They also closed schools on Monday after the strike notice.

“It’s putting people in a position to have a bit of time to make the plans that are necessary for their children,” Trumier said.

She added that a province-wide strike of any type is significant.

“It’s a significant message to look at different ways to improve working conditions for teachers and for students and we’re hoping for a positive resolve, and we’ll trust that the two bargaining committees will continue to work at this to resolve it quickly,” she said.

Government disappointed in second one-day strike

The Government of Saskatchewan expressed their disappointment with the STF’s most recent job action in an email to the Daily Herald on Monday.

“The Government-Trustee Bargaining Committee (GTBC) has put forward a fair deal for teachers with a 7 per cent raise over three years, ensuring Saskatchewan teachers remain paid above the Western Canadian Average. The GTBC remains at the table, ready to discuss competitive salary and benefits but cannot negotiate without the STF at the table as well,” the email reads.

“Outside of the collective bargaining process, the Government of Saskatchewan have said we are actively working to address concerns around class size and complexity, and we are doing exactly what we said we would with a $53.1 million investment towards enrolment and complexity, a teacher-led innovation and support fund, and specialized support classroom pilot projects,”

“There are 21 tables actively negotiating and it is our hope that the STF will come back to the table and be one of them.”