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Saskatchewan teachers pull volunteer services indefinitely in labour dispute

April 9, 2024
The Canadian Press

People march in front of the Midtown Mall during a province-wide, one-day strike organized by members of Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation in Saskatoon, Sask., on Tuesday, January 16, 2024. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Heywood Yu

Saskatchewan teachers have withdrawn all volunteer services as they ramp up an ongoing labour dispute with the province.

Meanwhile, in the legislature Monday, the governing Saskatchewan Party said it’s found ways to address teachers’ concerns, but the Opposition NDP dismissed those promises as little more than an election-year “pinky swear.”

The indefinite job action means teachers won’t be available for students outside regular school hours, won’t provide lunchtime supervision and will stop volunteering for extracurricular activities and graduation planning.

“We know that grads are going to look different this year if job action continues in the current context,” said Jaimie Smith-Windsor, president of the Saskatchewan School Boards Association.


Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation president Samantha Becotte said Friday that the union asked for an amendment in the collective agreement stating the government would honour its commitments outlined in a recent draft memorandum, and the province refused.

The memorandum promises teachers a voice in how school divisions allocate funding. The union’s amendment also asks the government to follow through with commitments it made in a funding agreement with school boards in which the province promised millions of dollars more for classroom supports.

Education Minister Jeremy Cockrill told the house during question period Monday he’s disappointed in the latest job action.

“Government is making every effort to get the deal done,” he said.

Cockrill has said government and school divisions have found solutions to ensure increased investment in classrooms as well as a framework that would allow teachers to provide feedback on how those dollars are spent.

Opposition NDP education critic Matt Love told the house the promised funding for school boards amounts to a “pinky swear” during an election year. Saskatchewan is scheduled to have an election on or before Oct. 28.

“Teachers know there’s a big difference between Sask Party promises in an election year versus what’s actually in the budget after the ballots are counted.”

The government and teachers have been at an impasse for months over a new contract. Teachers want issues like classroom supports and class sizes negotiated as part of the deal, but the province does not.

The protracted labour dispute already led to the cancellation of the provincial high school basketball championship called Hoopla last month. Students have also seen international trips scrapped.

Despite the intensifying job action, Cockrill has promised that all Grade 12 graduation ceremonies will take place.

Smith-Windsor said local school boards are responsible for developing contingency plans, including for graduation. Boards are at various stages of planning, she said, and will communicate with parents as they develop.

“The best pathway back to stability and certainty for students, for families, for teachers and for publicly funded education right now is for folks to get back to the table,” Smith-Windsor said.

“That’s the only place we are going to get to an agreement.”

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