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As Saskatchewan teachers strike, government says it won't cross 'line in the sand'


Saskatchewan teachers hit the picket line on a frigid morning with temperatures hovering around -30 C and lower.

The walk-off Tuesday morning made good on the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation's (STF) pledge to strike for one-day to force the province expand contract talks to include a wider range of items, including class sizes and complexity.

"Hopefully it shows government that we're serious about this issue, and it gets them back to the table and having conversations and making long term commitments for our students and for our teachers around the province," STF president Samantha Becotte said from a picket line near the Saskatchewan legislature early Tuesday morning.

"It's going to be a really positive day," Becotte said.

The STF announced the strike last week, calling on the government to discuss matters such as the number of students in each classroom and how students with significant needs are supported.

The items are something the province is adamant don’t belong at the bargaining table despite an independent conciliator's report indicating it would not be inappropriate to discuss those concerns while negotiating a new contract.

Speaking to reporters on Tuesday, Education Minister Jeremy Cockrill said the government is firm in its opinion that the issues don't belong in a contract.

"That's a line in the sand for government that that we're not going to be moving on. We again believe classroom size, complexity are best dealt with by school divisions locally led school divisions, 27 of them all around the province in a diverse range of communities, size and demographics," Cockrill said.

He referenced a pair of short-term trial projects announced last week ahead of the STF's strike notice, one creating a handful of specialized "support" classrooms and the other inviting teachers to pitch ideas to improve education.

"I understand there's been some criticism on the pilot projects that we announced last week, but I think that's starting to show the government knows that there's issues and is willing to work on them," Cockrill said.

"I think there's a really great opportunity for for teachers to have a direct voice and how we address class size complexity through that pilot fund, and I look forward to seeing some of the ideas there."

Around 10 a.m., Becotte and Canadian Teachers’ Federation president Heidi Yetman deilivered letters to the legislature addressed to Premier Scott Moe and Saskatchewan Education Minister Jeremy Cockrill.

Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation president Samantha Becotte speaks to reporters in from of the Saskatchewan Legislative Building while teachers and supporters picket in the background. (Katy Syrota/CTV News)

The letters were from teachers and supporters across the province, outlining "critical issues," according to the union.

The STF said teachers would be at 40 demonstration sites across Saskatchewan. In Regina, the focus was on the legislative building Tuesday morning.

“We're seeing over 3,000 new students across the province and a reduction in teachers … So then we have influx of complexity and then we're seeing an influx of violence across the province and in Regina Public as well," Melissa Gerlach, Regina Public Schools Teachers' Association president said on the picket line Tuesday morning.

In Saskatoon, teachers set up shop in front of Midtown Plaza, Lawson Heights and Centre Mall and in front of the office of Sask. Party MLA Paul Merriman.

Colin Haughian was walking the picket in downtown Saskatoon.

"Just trying to find like, ways to support the kids and it's like "Why aren't we able to do more?' And it's like, well, we just like don't have the resources," Haughian said.

Bargaining between the two sides initially began in May 2023, with the STF declaring an impasse in October. Teachers have been without a contract since August.

--With files from Keenan Sorokan and Kayleen Sawatzky Top Stories

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