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Sask. teachers announce provincewide strike on budget day, Hoopla faces cancellation

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The Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation (STF) says a provincewide one day strike will be held on Wednesday this week, the same day the provincial government is set to reveal its latest budget.

More than 4,000 teachers will deliver a strong message at the legislative building in Regina, while hundreds more will take part in demonstrations across the province, an STF news release said.

“Government’s unwillingness to work with teachers in finding any path forward has forced this decision, which will impact students and communities both big and small across the province,” STF president Samantha Becotte said in the release.

Recently the STF requested that the two sides, who have been at odds since initial bargaining began in May of 2023, bring in a third-party arbitrator to help settle the dispute.

However, the province said last week that it was not interested in a third party referee at this time.

“I don't think we're at the point where binding arbitration would be appropriate,” Education Minister Jeremy Cockrill said.

Binding arbitration would deal with items in the provincial collectively bargained agreement. We've been clear that these issues — class size and complexity — are not issues related to the CBA,” he added.

Classroom size and complexity have been two topics the STF is adamant about getting to the bargaining table.

Earlier in the month, Premier Scott Moe revealed that the province plans to increase the education budget to $2.2 billion for 2024-25.

Moe said that the increase would also include more than $356 million specifically for classroom supports.

“This should clearly demonstrate our government's commitment to address teachers’ concerns around classrooms supports,” he said.

“We’re trying to ensure that the government is finding these points of collaboration as best we can to get the union back to the table but [also] to ensure that our kids can remain in the classroom and so that our kids can remain participating in their extracurricular events,” Moe then said on Monday.

The STF also announced Monday morning that it would pause extracurricular activities across the province on Thursday and Friday this week.

“Teachers will not provide voluntary services involved in the organization, supervision and facilitation of activities including athletics, non-curricular arts, field trips, student travel, graduation preparations, school clubs and other activities,” the release said.

The STF said that will include Hoopla, the provincial high school basketball championships being held in Moose Jaw and the Optimist Band Festival in Regina.

In a statement to CTV News on Monday, a spokesperson for the festival said events will be cancelled on both Wednesday and Thursday due to the strike action.

The Saskatchewan High Schools Athletic Association (SHSAA) said on Monday that if the two sides are not able to come to an agreement that lifts job action before 3 p.m. Wednesday, Hoopla would be cancelled.

“The SHSAA relies heavily on the volunteer efforts of teachers across this province to provide educational athletic experiences to our students. Without Saskatchewan teachers available to participate in SHSAA activities as a coach, official, or organizer, SHSAA events cannot continue to be offered,” the release said.

Approximately 750 students plus coaches, managers and other team personnel would be impacted by the cancellation of Hoopla as will several other organizations and entities, the SHSAA said.

Regina Grade 12 student Kira Dureault spoke to reporters at the Legislature on Monday. As the captain of her school’s basketball team, she expressed her teammate’s concerns over the potential cancelation.

“Everything we do all year is to get to provincials. Every school and every team … just wants to compete this weekend,” she said. “That's what we're begging for really.”

Dureault had a few choice words for the government in regards to bargaining.

“Follow your word. That's all you really have to do … that's what I don't understand why adults who have been doing this for years - can't do that,” she said.

“I just really I want it to end and I want our teachers to be supported. I want the students to feel supported. I want to feel supported and I don't want to be just a pawn being moved around in this chess game.”

Premier Scott Moe said he feels teachers are targeting specific student activities with the latest job action announcement.

“That’s disappointing and I think all Saskatchewan residents whether it be parents, teachers themselves, or government find that disappointing,” Moe said on Monday.

High school students are planning to protest the potential cancellation of the event at Moose Jaw's city hall on Monday.

Meanwhile, job action announced last week by the STF sees noon-hour supervision paused Monday and Tuesday in several school divisions.

Saskatchewan teachers’ last contract expired in August of 2023. Despite some sit downs at the bargaining table impasses were declared twice by the STF, in October and again in February.

-- With files from Rory MacLean.

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