Teachers Refuse to Take Bait: No Deal Til Gov Issues “Irrevocable Collective Agreement”

*Updated with Quotes from Samantha Becotte*

The tension between Saskatchewan’s teachers and the provincial government reached new heights today as Premier Scott Moe yesterday unveiled a significant education funding increase of $180 million. The move, strategically timed ahead of the budget’s official introduction on March 20th, was met with skepticism and accusations from the Saskatchewan Teachers Federation (STF).

“Government has once again announced ad-hoc funding to avoid being held accountable. This is exactly what we predicted would happen and has come only after an enormous amount of public pressure. Our education system cannot function properly if it is reliant on ad-hoc, politically motivated funding announcements that come and go at the whim of the Minister.” Said STF President Samantha Becotte in a statement released just after 9pm Wednesday night. Just hours after Moe made his big funding announcement.

The teachers, locked in a prolonged strike, had predicted the funding boost earlier in the day, dubbing it a smokescreen to divert attention from the bargaining process. The STF alleges that the funds, touted as the largest increase in the province’s history, will inevitably be clawed back, leaving educators and students short-changed once the government deems fit.

Premier Scott Moe, breaking with tradition, took to social media to outline the education budget, emphasizing its historical significance. The $2.2 billion budget, a nearly nine percent increase, includes a specific allocation of $356 million for classroom supports. Moe urged teachers to end their job action and return to the bargaining table, framing the funding increase as an opportunity to negotiate a fair deal for both educators and taxpayers.

Additionally the STF has expressed worry over documents revealing undisclosed discussions between the Ministry of Education and the provincial leadership of the Saskatchewan School Boards Association. These talks, held outside the collective bargaining process, allegedly to draft a memorandum of understanding regarding class complexity between the province and the SSBA.

“We are at a crucial point for the future of education in Saskatchewan. Teachers have expressed concern about class complexity for most of a decade, but the SSBA has been ineffective at finding a solution through its advocacy. Agreements that emerge from secret meetings are an attempt by government to sideline teachers and co-opt the SSBA. If government would bring its proposals to the bargaining table instead of regularly trying to work outside of negotiations, an agreement could be quickly concluded,” STF President Samantha Becotte said in a release.

Despite the province’s alleged political stunting – teachers stand firm, refusing to resume negotiations without the government’s commitment to address class size and complexity at the provincial level. With frustration mounting among teachers who see the funding announcement as a calculated move to avoid accountability in the bargaining process.

“The STF has heard and appreciates the support of parents, caregivers and students from across the province. Teachers want to be in classrooms and supporting students; we don’t want to be on the picket lines or withdrawing voluntary and extracurricular services,” Becotte says. “We will continue our fight until government provides a guarantee within the collective agreement to properly fund education.”

With battle lines drawn, the Premier now find himself in the midst of a “standoff” with no sign of resolution, leaving the fate of the province’s education system hanging in the balance.

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