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Sask. parent concerned STF ‘forcing’ teachers to use students as ‘pawns’ as strike action continues

Teachers across Saskatchewan are withdrawing from all extracurricular activities, starting this morning, for at least 48 hours. 

That means clubs and activities for students, including sports, drama, music, band rehearsals, student leadership activities, science clubs, intramurals, books fairs and more, will not be offered on Tuesday and Wednesday. 

This is the latest round of job action by the Saskatchewan Teachers Federation (STF), which remains at a bargaining impasse with the Saskatchewan Party government over a new contract. 

Silas Dain, who has a son in a Grade 9 Saskatoon classroom, has expressed frustration over rotating strikes and withdrawal of services. 

“It feels like the STF keeps forcing the teachers to use these kids as hostages or pawns,” Dain said during an interview Monday. 

Dain said he’s self-employed, which allows him to modify his schedule to help his son when teachers have taken job action. However, he cautions that other parents aren’t able to do the same.

“I just don’t know how people think this is a smart thing to do to these kids and these families, and I mean, it doesn’t affect us a whole lot, as I said earlier, but it’s almost a joke in our family now. My boy had nine days of school in January and 12 days in February. To me, that’s just ludicrous,” Dain said.

Dain, who was a business manager for a Saskatchewan Party candidate in the 2020 election, said he does not begrudge the work of teachers in the province.

However, he does want teachers and the government to hash out a deal, and to do it quickly. 

A woman holds a sign with the phrase "I got 99 problems but SK Party won't fund 1."
Some parents and guardians have expressed concerns that students will miss out on special events because of job action by teachers in the province. (Alexander Quon/CBC)

Teachers say province won’t address main concerns 

Teachers in the province have been without a contract since last August, and started a series of job actions in January.

Teachers say the province refuses to discuss provisions to address class size and supports for students with complex needs, while the government has insisted those are issues for the local school boards to deal with and says the main issue is salary increases.

The escalating job action has some Saskatchewan guardians concerned their children might miss out on opportunities. A band trip to New York City for students in North Battleford is one example.

Twenty-nine students from North Battleford Comprehensive High School are scheduled to visit the big apple next week.

The students, who are in Grade 8 to Grade 12, have been planning and fundraising for the five-day long trip since last year. 

“One of our big fundraisers that we were planning to do was actually coming up on Tuesday — and that’s now cancelled,” said Dominique Mannix. 

Mannix’s daughter plays percussion in the band and her husband is serving as a chaperone for the trip.

“We can’t have our fundraiser because it’s being held at the school and it’s considered extracurricular.”

Right now, no job action is planned for the week of the trip, but that could change.

Mannix said she wants the two sides to go back to the bargaining table to help preserve the trip and deal with issues in the classroom. 

She believes the STF has a point to make about class complexity.

“It doesn’t matter how much money you’re offered, you’re still going to feel overwhelmed and overworked at the end of the day, unless something is done to improve your working conditions.”

Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe looks towards the media during a press conference on Bill 137.
Saskatchewan Premier Scott Moe said the advocacy from teachers is ‘admirable,’ but that he wants them to return to the bargaining table. (CBC / Radio-Canada)

On Monday, Premier Scott Moe described the advocacy by teachers as “admirable,” but said he wants the STF back at the bargaining table.

“I think Saskatchewan parents would ask for more of a commitment to bargaining as opposed to organizing rallies and protests that we see happening here.”

Moe also hinted at upcoming announcements that will address the issues of class size and complexity.

STF president Samantha Becotte has said the organization is unwilling to meet with provincial negotiators until they are empowered to to address the two issues during negotiations.

WATCH| Former Sask. teacher says lack of supports put student safety at risk

sask parent concerned stf forcing teachers to use students as pawns as strike action continues 2

Former Sask. teacher says lack of supports put student safety at risk

5 days ago

Duration 1:05

Juliane Bell says teachers at John Dolan School for students with multiple disabilities were expected to change diapers and lift students, causing stress and burnout she says drove her to leave teaching in 2022.

The organization has pointed to agreements in Ontario and B.C. that have language addressing workload and class size.

Moe and Education Minister Jeremy Cockrill have maintained class size and complexity are an issue best left to school boards to deal with and are not something for a collective agreement.

This article is from from cbc.ca (CBC NEWS CANADA)

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