Saskatchewan teachers rally for higher wages
Nine months without contract
First Posted: May 5, 2011 10:06am | Last Updated: May 9, 2011 10:35am
It's been nine months since Saskatchewan's teachers had a contract -- so they're walking. At least 2500 teachers and supporters gathered at the legislative building Thursday in an effort to force the province to find more money to offer in their on-going contract dispute. Schools throughout the province were essentially closed as teachers walk off the job for a day. Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation President Steven Allen is calling it an historic event that sends a clear message. “Well the statement is: Look, we’re serious. We need to negotiate. We need to get back to the table. “ But Education Minister Donna Harpauer is defending the position of the province's bargaining table. She believes the 5.5 per cent increase over three years being offered to teachers is fair. She insists the 12 per cent the teachers want is simply unreasonable, but it shouldn't keep them from bargaining. "I know teachers have implied that unless we say that there's more money for wages, they won't return. We are unconditional. We are at the table," she said. Neither side has offered a new proposal since conciliation talks broke down in March. The teachers say they need a 12 per cent raise in one year to bring staff up to western Canadian standards. The province's bargaining committee insists 5.5 per cent over three years is generous enough. NDP Leader Dwain Lingenfelter feels the government brought this on itself after giving nurses and health-care CEOs raises of 35 per cent or more. "If it's fair to give huge increases to some people in society, what is the argument here to keep the increase here very low?" Lingenfelter said the NDP and the public will support the teachers -- even if they decide to move to a full strike. Meanwhile thousands of teachers in Saskatoon, went to the Prairieland Park building for what they referred to as a study session. Teachers there are examining the bargaining agreement so that everyone knows what the next steps will be. Priscilla is a teacher and says for the most part, they all feel the same way. “You’re always a teacher and you put so much time into it. Sometimes we have to leave the family because we have to do our job,” said Priscilla. She believes the one-day walk off has been productive and hopes it will demonstrate that teachers deserve more.