STF escalates job action with 4-day province-wide withdrawal of extracurricular activities

Daily Herald File Photo STF President Samantha Becotte

The Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation (STF) has announced a province-wide withdrawal of extracurricular activities for all of next week and a withdrawal of noon-hour supervision on Monday, March 25 by six local teachers’ associations including the Prince Albert Area Teachers Association (PAATA).

The withdrawal will run from Monday, March 25 until Thursday, March 28, with no classes scheduled for Good Friday.

“For weeks we have made it clear that job action would escalate if government continued its refusal to negotiate or agree to binding arbitration on class size and complexity – the issue that is most important to teachers,” STF President Samantha Becotte said in a press release.

“The withdrawal of extracurricular activities during the four days leading up to spring break demonstrates that teachers remain steadfast in their call for sustainable funding for prekindergarten to Grade 12 education.”

Withdrawal of extracurricular activities means teachers will not provide voluntary services involved in the organization, supervision or facilitation of activities including athletics, non-curricular arts, field trips, student travel, graduation preparations, school clubs and other activities.

The withdrawal of extracurricular means that the open house at Carlton Comprehensive High School that was rescheduled to March 26 will again not happen as scheduled.

“We know the importance of extracurricular activities in the lives of both students and teachers; teachers do not want to see the cancellation of events and experiences that are meaningful to students,” Becotte said. “Government’s unwillingness to compromise leaves us no other options when it comes to negotiating a contract that provides predictable, ongoing supports for students and schools, and recognizes the important role played by teachers.

“This is the longest-ever job action by Saskatchewan teachers, but we would halt sanctions immediately if government would either agree to binding arbitration on the single issue of class size and complexity or provide the Government-Trustee Bargaining Committee with a mandate that includes that issue.”

The withdrawal of supervision on Monday will also affect students in the Holy Family Catholic School Division, all schools in Holy Trinity Catholic School Division, all schools in Northeast School Division, all schools in Prairie Spirit School Division, all schools in Living Sky and Light of Christ Catholic schools divisions and Sakewew High School (North Battleford).

Withdrawal of noon-hour supervision means STF members will not be available to supervise students who are eating lunch at school or taking part in noon-hour activities. Although teachers, including principals and vice-principals, often provide lunch-break supervision, it is not part of their contracted professional duties. Student supervision is the responsibility of the school division and supervisors are not required to be teachers.

With the announcement of this withdrawal next week the Daily Herald asked for comment from the Prince Albert Catholic School Division and Saskatchewan Rivers School Division but did not receive a response in time for deadline.

The STF stated that they appreciate the continued strong support of parents, caregivers, students and other organizations and individuals across the province.

They said that hundreds of community members joined teachers in a crowd of 6,000 people at the Legislative Building on Wednesday and supporters contributed to a strong presence at all 32 demonstration sites throughout Saskatchewan.

Since January, nearly 400,000 emails and phone calls have been made to MLAs, locally elected school board trustees and leadership of the Saskatchewan School Boards Association in support of publicly funded education and to urge government to give its bargaining team a mandate to negotiate class size and complexity.

The Ministry of Education emailed a statement from Minister of Education Jeremy Cockrill saying the province was “extremely disappointed” by today’s decision, and accused the STF of targeting extracurricular activities across Saskatchewan.

“While it was heartening to see teachers, students and parents work together to ensure some activities continued despite the STF’s sanctions, we want to ensure students aren’t negatively impacted any further,” Cockrill said.

“As I indicated publicly yesterday, work has been underway to find a path forward with the teachers’ union. Not only have we moved on many of the items that the STF has asked for, but we are also prepared to create an accountability framework connected to the historic multiyear funding agreement,

“If the union leadership wants teachers to be a part of that process, they need to stop focusing their efforts on disrupting learning and cancelling activities, and start focusing their efforts on bargaining. That is the same message I delivered to union leadership earlier this week,” he added.

He concluded by saying that he will have more to say next week on how the government is working to ensure students have opportunities they deserve like graduation.