Saskatchewan teachers to pull volunteer services indefinitely in labour dispute

Saskatchewan teachers say they will be withdrawing volunteer services indefinitely after getting nowhere with the province on a draft memorandum of understanding in their ongoing labour dispute.

Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation president Samantha Becotte told reporters Friday that teachers won’t be available for students outside regular school hours and won’t volunteer for lunchtime supervision.

They will also stop volunteering for all extracurricular activities and graduation planning.

The job action is set to start Monday.

Becotte said the union asked for an amendment in the collective agreement stating the government would honour its commitments outlined in the draft memorandum, and the province refused.

“Sounds pretty simple, that was it. Just do what you say you’re committing to do,” Becotte said.

The memorandum promises teachers a voice in how school divisions allocate funding. It includes a reporting mechanism to track how dollars are being spent.

The union’s amendment also asks the government to follow through with commitments it made in a funding agreement with school boards. In that agreement, the province promised millions of dollars more for classroom supports.

The government and teachers have been at an impasse for months over a new contract.

The teachers want classroom sizes and other supports in the collective agreement, but the province says those items can be addressed outside the contract.

Education Minister Jeremy Cockrill said in a statement Friday he’s disappointed in the latest job action.

“Government and school divisions have found solutions to assure increased investment into classrooms, multi-year predictability for those investments, as well as a framework that would allow teachers to provide feedback on how those dollars are spent in their local school division,” Cockrill said.

“The teachers’ union leadership’s move to block the opportunity for their own members to have a voice is another example of how this round of bargaining has been more about union control than actual solutions for classrooms.”

Becotte said teachers need a real solution to deal with their need for additional supports in the classroom.

“We’re not looking for some magic fix, and we need real commitments that just aren’t election-year promises,” she said. “We need to know, year after year, that experiences in our classrooms are going to improve.”

Saskatchewan is scheduled to have an election on or before Oct. 28.

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