Teachers announce two-day withdrawal of extracurricular services

Daily Herald File Photo STF President Samantha Becotte

Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation (STF) president Samantha Becotte had a message for the province’s students on Thursday: we want to make sure your needs are being met.

Becotte made the comments after the STF announced a two-day removal of services for all extracurricular activities on Tuesday, March 5, and Wednesday, March 6. The move means teachers will not offer voluntary service for athletics, non-curricular arts, field trips, student travel, and graduation preparations.

“My message would be we are concerned right along with you,” Becotte said during a press conference Thursday afternoon. “We want to make sure that your needs are being met, that your mentally well. We want to provide these amazing opportunities. That’s why teachers volunteer their time…. They know and see the impact that they have on students lives, as well as the learning that happens in classroom.

“We talk about education being the greatest equalizer. Well, that can only happen if we have the right supports in schools to be able to ensure that all kids can thrive in their classrooms and get their needs met.”

The move is the latest in a series of rotating strikes and service withdrawals. Becotte said she realizes it can be tough on students, but emphasized the STF wants students to thrive, and that can’t happen without serious changes.

In her opening remarks, she blasted the provincial government for ignoring the implications of escalating job action, and argued the Ministry of Education is not negotiating in good faith by refusing to make commitments at the bargaining table.

She urged parents, students, or trustees who are unhappy with the breakdown in talks to contact their MLAs.

“Teachers don’t want to be taking these actions,” she told reporters. “If government continues to ignore the big issues, we will have no other choice but to further escalate our actions.”

Becotte said the goal of the two-day job action is to convince the province and SSBA to get back to the bargaining table.

When asked if she thinks the escalating round of job actions were effective at reaching their goals, Becotte said they’re hopeful it will work.

“We don’t want to have that significant disruption to student learning,” she said. “That is not in the best interest of anyone.”

The Daily Herald contacted the Ministry of Education asking for an interview about the latest STF job action. In response, the Ministry sent a statement arguing that STF leadership were choosing job action over getting a deal done.

“The Government Trustee Bargaining Committee (GTBC) extended invitations every day last week to the STF to come back to the bargaining table, where negotiators had been waiting and were ready to engage in meaningful discussions,” the statement reads. “The government has moved on a number of items that the STF asked for, including a renewed salary mandate and workplace safety enhancements. The STF has refused to move off their initial proposals, including a 23.4 per cent salary increase.

“Outside of bargaining, government has proposed an agreement with the STF to annualize the $53.1 million in additional funding for class size and complexity. Since October, the STF has been at the bargaining table for a total of 30 minutes. Teachers and students should be in the classroom, and the teachers’ union should be at the bargaining table.”