Schools in Weyburn will be closed today, as teachers conduct a one-day strike in their first job action since an impasse was declared in the negotiations between the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation and the provincial government in October. The one-day strike was announced last Thursday, with the STF stating they were giving the notice five days in advance to give parents time to prepare and see if the province would return to the negotiating table.
The Teachers’ Bargaining had declared the impasse in the negotiations with the province in October and started the conciliation process to get negotiations resumed. The talks for the new contract were contentious, with the STF putting forward 10 issues they wanted to have included in the CBA. The federation states the government has refused to bargain on nine of the issues, which included things such as classroom size and complexity.
The province has offered a pay increase of 7.2 percent over three years but has refused to include classroom size and complexity as part of the agreement, stating it is something that needs to be handled at the division level. The STF has said the conciliation board agreed with their position it is something that can be included in the collective agreement.
At the end of October, the membership of the STF voted 95 percent in favour of sanctions to be exercised during the school year, including the possibility of a strike or work to rule. Any decisions on job action, however, were put off during the conciliation process.
In the middle of December, it was announced the conciliation meetings did not prove to be successful, but no action was taken until the report from the conciliation board was presented to the two sides.
Last week, after the STF and the government had received the report, it was announced the one-day strike would be taking place.
Since the announcement of the strike, the provincial Ministry of Education has not responded to any requests by Discover Weyburn for interviews. The school divisions in the area have responded to the requests and confirmed the schools will be closed to students today. Both South East Cornerstone Public School Division and Holy Family Roman Catholic Separate School Division also confirmed they support the bargaining process, and hope a new agreement can be reached soon.
The strike is expected to last for just one day, with classes resuming tomorrow. There is no word at this time if there is any further job action planned by the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation.
This will be the second time in the past 15 years teachers have staged any sort of strike, and only the third time since 1933. Rotating strikes and a two-day withdrawal of voluntary services in 2011 resulted in special mediation which produced a new contract.
There was the possibility of a walkout in 2020, with teachers voting in favour of the sanctions on March 12th, but the closure of schools at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic pre-empted any possible strike action, and a new contract was agreed to and ratified by the middle of June that year.