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Teachers descend on Saskatchewan Legislature for first day of spring session

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Saskatchewan’s Legislative Building was a crowded venue Monday – as thousands of teachers from surrounding school divisions showed up to voice their disapproval of the current state of contract negotiations.

According to the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation (STF), approximately 3,500 educators attended demonstrations outside the legislative assembly.

Jennifer Karlunchuck was one of them. She told CTV News she’s hopes the sight of teachers at the steps of the legislature attracts some attention.

“[We’re feeling] a little disheartened because we don’t feel like we’re being listened to but hopefully this is a step in the right direction,” she said. “Maybe we’ll start to get some progress and back to the bargaining table.”

Teaching staff from Regina Public Schools, Regina Catholic Schools, Prairie South School Division, Holy Family Catholic School Division, South East Cornerstone School Division, as well as teachers from Conseil des écoles fransaskoises and the Saskatchewan Distance Learning Centre took part in the event.

Due to the fallout of a province-wide winter storm – teachers who couldn’t safely travel to Regina took part in “alternative advocacy actions” including calling and emailing government to voice their concerns.

Among those who couldn’t attend the rally due to weather was STF President Samantha Becotte – who planned to sit in on the legislature’s first sitting of the spring session.

In a news release, Becotte thanked everyone who came out to show their support.

“The level of support we’ve seen is a sign to teachers across the province that Saskatchewan people share our goal of achieving long-term funding commitments that will improve the classroom experience for students,” Becotte said in a STF news release.

“It is a clear signal to government that we are united, we are supported and we are not backing down.”

The STF and the Government Trusteee Bargaining Committee (GTBC) were last at the bargaining table on Feb. 13.

Since then, the STF has instituted a steady stream of rotating strikes and withdrawals of services.

Speaking to reporters Monday morning, Premier Scott Moe reiterated the province’s position that any funding for classroom size and complexity would be provided to school divisions – not negotiated as part of a collective agreement with teachers.

“Certainly 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,” he said referring to the protest outside the legislature.

Moe also hinted at an announcement concerning education funding in the coming days.

“In the next day or two, you are going to see an even further significant commitment that this government is going to make to our students in our classrooms [and] to our teachers that are in those very classrooms,” he said.

“With that investment. We would invite the union back to the bargaining table. Let's sit down, work our way through these issues on behalf of the students – the students that deserve access to a classroom.”

Educator Joel Lareau said he’ll wait and see if the premier’s promise leads to action.

“Without knowing the details, I mean if patterns of the past have indicated anything – they said ‘big announcement’ but I was somewhat underwhelmed,” he told CTV News.

“I will wait and see.”

“Obviously we want it to be long term and be predictable and be sustainable and not a one time announcement. Obviously you know it’s an election year,” added Chris Kampman of the Regina Catholic Teachers Association.

The legislative grounds didn’t just host teachers, but students as well.

Grade 4 student Kyaan Horrie walked with teachers on the picket line. He said from what he’s seen, teachers are very busy.

“It’s sometimes hard to get the teacher’s attention because some other people are working because like there are usually tests going on and stuff so it would sometimes be hard to like to ask but when I get time to like ask, she would help me through,” he explained.

Other students who spoke to reporters inside the legislature, said they’ve noticed a dip in teacher morale since strike actions started.

“They’re not happy,” said Grade 8 student Lena Conway. “They’re not happy with what their job is like doing to them right now and it’s not fair to any of us. It’s not fair to any of my friends.”

“We're constantly having to ask our teacher questions. Do we have school tomorrow? Are there going to be extracurricular tomorrow? Is this date is this due date going to be pushed back? It's very difficult to know because they're getting they're getting very inconsistent information,” Grade 8 student Elizah-Jayne Temple explained.

“I think the government needs to just come and talk to the teachers and they need to come to an agreement because this isn't helpful for anyone and it's not making a good environment for the teachers or for us.”

Initial contract negotiations began between the STF and the province in May of 2023. The STF declared impasses in negotiations in October and February.

Saskatchewan teachers have been without a contract since August of 2023.

In the its Monday news release, the STF claimed that nearly 130,000 emails have been sent to government MLAs, and elected school board trustees as part of the STF’s “Tell Them Tuesday” campaign.

“Students, families and teachers are in this situation because this government simply will not listen,” Becotte added.

“For years, they have not listened to parents, teachers, trustees and other experts in the education sector who have been raising alarm bells about underfunding. Today, we bring those concerns to their doorstep. Enough is enough.”

The demonstration at the legislature will be followed by a withdrawal of noon hour supervision for select schools divisions on Tuesday.

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