STF announces indefinite work-to-rule to begin Monday

Daily Herald File Photo STF President Samantha Becotte

After seeming to have some movement in their ongoing dispute with the provincial government, the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation (STF) has announced an escalation in job action.

On Monday, April 8, teachers across the province will start an indefinite work-to-rule campaign. In a late afternoon press conference Friday, STF president Samantha Becotte announced that no resolution had been reached on the offer of an accountability framework for classroom complexity funding that was made last week. That lack of resolution prompted the most significant job action of the dispute.

“Our hope is that the government takes this action as a serious next step in our sanctions,” Becotte said. “This is a significant escalation in terms of what we have had in the past, to where we are now.”

Effective province wide Monday, teachers will arrive at schools no earlier than 15 minutes before the start of their workday, and stay no later than 15 minutes after the end of their workday.

Work-to-rule requires the withdrawal of all voluntary services, including noon-hour supervision and extracurricular activities. Teachers will restrict their services to the hours of the workday.

Voluntary services, including noon-hour supervision and extracurricular activities, will also be withdrawn indefinitely. With graduation top of mind for many, as June nears, Becotte confirmed planning for ceremonies and celebrations is also considered a voluntary service.

At the end of March, the government proposed a memorandum of understanding with teachers that would lay out the terms of an accountability framework to ensure proposed education funding makes it into the classrooms and toward the support that it is intended for – to benefit students directly. This gave teachers reason to believe that a return to the table was on the horizon.

After two weeks of back and forth, teachers’ last position was that the provincial collective bargaining agreement must include the following sentence:

“The parties agree that the Multi-Year Funding Agreement and the accountability framework will be followed and honoured.”

Becotte said that it was a relatively simple request of the GTBC.

“That was it,” she said. “Just do what you say you’re committing to do and if the government’s words were true and they were committed to carrying out the MFA and the MOU, then there should be no concern with adding this one line to the agreement with teachers.

“I have no doubt that we will soon hear some government spin on what happened this week. They will say that school boards have management rights that STF is trying to take away control from school boards and take over decision making. They’ll say that we want a BC model with hard class caps. They’ll say that the teacher’s bargaining team hasn’t moved on any of their positions. None of these statements are true.”

The STF says that the government has refused to honour their accountability framework by including a single line in a provincial collective agreement. The STF says that they have informed the government that the inclusion of this one line, or sending this one issue to binding arbitration, would be a path back to the bargaining table.

“There were a few back-and-forth conversations throughout the middle of this week. We were left with a flat-out no today shortly after noon,” Becotte said.

Becotte said the two parties “went back and forth quite a bit this week” as the STF reviewed the draft framework, and no sanctions took place over the Easter break.

Binding arbitration has previously been suggested by the STF and refused by the government.

On March 8, the Government of Saskatchewan and the Saskatchewan School Boards Association (SSBA) announced a Multi-Year Funding Agreement that purports to provide funds to address issues of class size and complexity.

This MFA leaves these funds, which are critically needed in classrooms, open to appropriation for other uses, such as servicing debt at the division level or government clawbacks.

Saskatchewan Rivers School Division Director of Education Neil Finch said that the division has had a contingency plan in place around possible STF job actions since September 2023 but has made minor adjustments.

“(It) just depends on what comes out at us, right,” Finch explained. “We would just continue to do the same thing. If we have to adjust our contingency plan, then that’s what we’ll do.”

The contingency plan includes items like communications with parents whenever job actions are announced. He explained it is also in the operations side for whatever may occur,” Finch said.

He said they have a plan in place for any sanction that might come forward just ahead of the work-to-rule announcement on Friday and would make adjustments if sanctions were announced.

Finch said that the division has usually had more than 48 hours’ notice which usually occurs ahead of the formal announcement by the STF.

Contingency plans about possible graduation disruptions have not been finalized as of yet, according to Finch.

“Even when we were planning in September we were not thinking about the end of June, mid-June and grad plans,” he explained. “We definitely are going to be taking a look at our contingency plan around grad planning.”

Prince Albert Catholic School Division director of education Lorel Trumier remained optimistic about a possible settlement when interviewed on Tuesday.

“We are appreciative of 48 hours notice and we are in a position to need to respond as those 48-hour notices do arrive, the sanction notices. We are hoping for a quick resolve or resolve, we’re optimistic I guess is the best way to say that we are optimistic that there would be some resolve, but hoping for that to come,” Trumier said.

She said that the division was waiting to hear about discussions between the sides on graduations.

Minister of Education Jeremy Cockrill said that he was disappointed in the latest escalation in a statement emailed to the Herald.

“It is very disappointing that once again the teachers’ union leadership are moving the goalposts and prioritizing job action that will directly impact students and families instead of returning to the bargaining table to reach a fair deal,” Cockrill said.

He said that Government and School Divisions have found solutions to ensure increased investment into classrooms, multi-year predictability for those investments, as well as a framework that would allow teachers to provide feedback on how those dollars are spent in their local school division.

“The teachers’ union leadership’s move to block the opportunity for their own members to have a voice is another example of how this round of bargaining has been more about union control than actual solutions for classrooms. The teachers’ union leadership has also refused to move from their initial proposals, which includes a 23.4 per cent salary increase. A fair deal for teachers must also be a fair deal for Saskatchewan taxpayers. The GTBC remains at the table, ready to reach a deal on behalf of students, teachers and families,” Cockrill said.