The Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation says the province and school trustees are stonewalling on the biggest issues in negotiations toward a new collective agreement for educators in the province, federation president Samantha Becotte said.
Becotte said the union has tried to have discussions about violence in the classroom, as well as class size and complexity, noting these issues affect both teachers and students.
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“We are seeing an increase of violence in our classes, unfortunately,” Becotte said, noting that some students have trouble regulating their emotions, which can sometimes lead to violence.
“This is at no fault of the students. This is a result of class complexity and students not having access to the resources they need.”
Becotte said teachers and students have a right to a classroom that is safe, noting that the federation is pushing to put protections in place. She also said students aren’t getting the professional support they need, adding that the increase in class sizes doesn’t help.
There have been about six days of discussions between the two sides, but Becotte said the government isn’t bugging. “We just see no movement from the other side of the table with the government or trustees in any commitment in addressing this at the bargaining table.”
Becotte said federation negotiators have been presenting data around class size and complexity, as well as experiences of teachers, noting these are many of the same talking points that the federation has been bringing forward over the past year.
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“It’s really going beyond that triaging level to a crisis.”
Becotte said they’ve had trustees acknowledge that the complexity of classrooms has increased, but didn’t feel it was a bargaining issue.
“But traditionally, working conditions are a negotiable issue… It’s something that we’ll continue to address as we see our government time and time again balance the books on the backs of teachers and students.”
Becotte said the federation is looking at getting some Saskatchewan-specific statistics, but said there has been a general attrition rate of about 40 per cent among educators in the first five years of their careers.
“Even if people go through an education program, many of them once they get to the practical component where they’re doing that pre-teaching service, many of them get to the classroom and don’t actually realize the significant amount of work that teachers have to do on a day-to-day basis.”
She said many of those would-be teachers would finish their degree but would move on to something else.
Becotte said the federation is also seeing experienced teachers jumping to different provinces or leaving teaching altogether.
“The government doesn’t see this as a recruitment or retention issue.”
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Becotte said teachers might see the small top-ups that the provincial government has responded to after facing political pressure over the past couple of years, but added that’s not the best way to approach planning for education.
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“If we don’t see protections around class size and complexity, then I just see further erosion to public education, less support, fewer teachers and higher class sizes.”
“I know we talk about growth that works for everyone; with a high-quality education, that’s the growth that we need to see for the future.”
She said without that investment in education she’s worried about the outlook for education over the next decade.
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Becotte said further rounds of bargaining would take place in August, September and October, noting that she hopes to see a shift in the wall they’ve seen at the table.
Global News reached out to the Ministry of Education for an interview and received a statement.
“The Government-Trustee Bargaining Committee’s (GTBC) proposed offer of a 7 per cent increase in compensation to teachers over three years is a fair deal for teachers and taxpayers. Teachers in Saskatchewan earn salaries above the average for teachers in western Canada, while living in one of the most affordable provinces in the country,” the statement read.
The ministry said the committee was there to negotiate total compensation, including salary and benefits, and also spoke about previous funding bumps that had already been announced.
“Outside of that process, an additional $40 million was provided to school divisions to support enrollment growth and the complexity of today’s classrooms. With this announcement, operating funding has grown to $2.08 billion for the 2023-24 school year, an increase of $89.4 million or 4.5% over the 2022-23 school year.”
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