Daily Scene May 5th – Saskatchewan Teachers’ Strike

I want to support teachers. I really do.

My son’s Grade One teacher, a seasoned veteran who still loves six-year-olds after twentysome years of experiencing them day after day after day (can you imagine?), is simply the best. I have friends and family who are teachers; the hours – hours of their own time – they devote to coaching, mentoring, supervising and caring for their students is mind-boggling.

Not having my son in school isn’t an inconvenience.  I work from home, but even if I wasn’t, my mom has been running a daycare for thirty years. So we’re good.

I want to support teachers. But I don’t support being taken for a fool – and as far as I’m concerned, that’s what the Saskatchewan Teacher’s Federation brass are getting dangerously close to taking the entire province for.

The Saskatchewan government’s most recent offer is a 5.5% increase over three years. A government website has been set up dedicated to detailing the information as it’s being presented.

The STF is looking for an unheard of one-year contract confirming a 12% wage increase. Yes, a 12% hike. A one-year contract.

Trying to find any other information is futile. The STF’s own website doesn’t even admit that they want the 12% in one year, stating only “Teachers are asking for a 12 per cent increase”. The balance of the information presented focuses on comparing teachers to Saskatchewan nurses and MLAs.

MLAs – men and women whose job performance is coldly and definitively judged every four years through a public vote. Can you imagine if parents got to vote every few years on whether each teacher kept their job?

The numbers the STF are using to justify their strike mandate are watery at best, if not completely nonsensical. According to their website: ”Historically Saskatchewan teachers have been paid more than their colleagues in Manitoba and less than their counterparts in Alberta. That historical relationship no longer exists. Saskatchewan teachers on average are now the lowest paid teachers in the prairies, factoring in the cost of living.” The STF then presents a comparison chart that shows that yes, Saskatchewan teachers are being paid an average of 23% less than Alberta’s. A quick scan of Manitoba’s salary comparisons – a complicated web of classifications and regions, shows Manitoba is bang on, or slightly less in regions like Winnipeg, with Saskatchewan.

How this means the “historical relationship” no longer exists is beyond me. “Factoring in the cost of living” is also a pretty loaded statement, particularly without the provision of any facts or numbers to back it up. Don’t try and tell me that a teacher in Loreburn is paying a higher cost of living than a teacher in Calgary.

Next up is the statement the STF is using to justify Thursday’s one-day walkout: ”… teachers with a four-year degree starting out in Saskatchewan earn $7,560 a year less than the Western Canadian average. After 10 years of service, that number increases to $9,423 less than the Western Canadian average.”

What? An average of the Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba numbers clearly puts Saskatchewan at about $3000 under, not $7560. Throw BC into the mix and you’ve only got about $1000 difference. So where on earth does the $7500 “less than the Western Canadian average” line come from?

How about the North West Territories?

I just about choked when I heard that this was the STF – with a straight face – comparing themselves with teachers from places like Inuvik.

Ever buy a carton of milk in Tuktoyaktuk? Or go for a safe, healthy night out on the town?

And with this ludicrous bullsh*t the Saskatchewan Teacher’s Federation lost my support. Not only is it entirely disrespectful to those who take on the monumental challenge of dedicating themselves to teaching in Canada’s far north, it shows just how badly the STF has lost perspective on the real issues.

As a Saskatchewan taxpayer, and especially a parent, you have the right to be pissed off. This is absolutely nothing more than a greedy cash grab by STF brass. Now that the provincial economy is finally being managed properly – by a government that a great deal of staunchly union-supporting teachers have never supported and never will – the STF has seemingly decided that they’ll have a big ol’ piece of that money pie, thank you, students be damned. Next year, after a provincial election and another year of potash royalty collection, they’ll talk about three year contracts with balanced percentages.

Apparently 95% of Saskatchewan teachers voted 95% in favor of strike action. However, rumor has it that there’s only three days strike pay per teacher in the pot, so Thursday was Strike One. As the strike pot dwindles and summer looms, the appetite for this strike is going to dwindle – and failing an entire province of students isn’t an option. So, you’re going to either see a rushed conclusion before the end of June; or – OR – you’re going to see the whole thing flair up and disappear, reigniting in the fall – conveniently only weeks before the provincial election.

Rest assured this isn’t about quality of education. Those selfless, hardworking teachers who devote hours of their personal time after school and on weekends will continue to do so. So, however, will those who burn a rubber streak out of the parking lot every day at 3.30pm (about 3.20 on Fridays).

Unfortunately they’ll both continue to earn the same salary, regardless of how this nonsense shakes out.

While Gwen Dueck, general secretary of the Saskatchewan Teachers’ Federation insists that the government side is just as much to blame for students sitting at home, instead of in school where they belong – ultimately it was the teachers who locked the doors. Yes, the government has an obligation to continue to remain open to dialogue and negotiations, but they are not obligated to react to spoiled children locking themselves in their rooms, demanding $500 jeans because Daddy got a raise.

Comments

  1. Bravo Tammy, well said.

    I also noted your distinction between the STF and teachers as a whole.

    As you pointed out, good teachers will continue being good teachers and poor ones, well…

  2. Actually, the teachers will go out for however long it takes to get a fair settlement, regardless of how many days of strike pay is available. Interesting how those selfless, hardworking teachers turn into selfish children when they ask for fair compensation for what they do.

    • The STF is not taking you as a fool – you are demonstrating that quality completely on your own.
      You on one hand sympathize with teachers for the long hours worked. The supervision and time taken away from their own families.
      Let’s not think for one minute that any other profession when it comes time to think about contract, thinks about their benefits and compensation.
      I am glad to hear that it was not an issue for you Tammy to have your son at home, or that your Mom (talented lady she must be) has ran a daycare for 30 years. Can you imagine if we able to vote on whose daycare was sufficient and whose was not.
      I have never walked in and asked my “daddy” for a $500 for a new pair of jeans.
      If you were able to do that, perhaps your “mommy” charges too much for the care she provides the children in her daycare.
      I am disgusted with your comments and your rather inadequate and false information.
      People who work at home, they think they can have an opinion about everything!
      Not so nice, is it?
      Shame on you! If you truly feel this way, I encourage you to tell your “closest” friends and the grade 1 teacher who supports your family exactly the way you feel.
      Get over yourself!

      • hello simon!!!! YOU CAN HAVE YOUR SAY ON WHOSE DAYCARE IS SUFFIENT ENOUGH FOR YOUR NEEDS AS YOU CHOOSE YOUR OWN DAYCARE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! as for the $500 pair of jeans because daddy got a raise, i believe that she is refering to the government as daddy & the teachers as the children wanting the over the top priced jeans. – what would seem to be a ridicoulous request. perhaps you could go back to your teachers & they could explain what a metaphor is to you. teachers get equivilent of 1 month off during the year for holidays(which when reading facebook posts, they seem to vacation alot during this time, not spend it working), summers off & days off for inservice days, ed days, meetings,in lui of interview days..every time you turn around, there seems to be a day off school. They teach for 5.5hrs/day & most everyone in society puts in 8 hr days, and teachers don’t supervise & coach everyday, so, lets just say to make an 8 hr day, they should put in an extra 2 hr prep time/day, leaving 2.5 hrs average per week to supervise & coach. In our school, grade 7&8′s supervise the younger children eating lunch. I coached 2 ball teams last year & didn’t get paid or expected too even though it took away precious family time (fyi – i work 10hrs/day 5 days/week)!!! if they don’t want to coach, ask members of the community – i’m sure there would be people willing to volunteer their precious family time to help the kids for free. i think that all this extra PAID time off makes up for supervision, coaching and extra work they do. our district starts at 43,000/yr & after 15 yrs 72,000. I would think that this income & 3 months off in the year should be sufficient for the extra time put in. RCMP who are starting out don’t even start this high & they risk their lives for us!!!!! You can’t compare sk to alberta – thats like comparing a hotdog(sask) to steak(alberta) for prices(cost of living). do you understand that metaphor? i tried to keep it simple for you. daycare is approx $250/child/month more in alberta than here. if you want to make alberta wages – move to alberta!!!!!!!So, thank you Tammy for shedding some truth on this pity party the stf & teachers are having!!!!

        • What you have said here regarding the amount of hours a teacher puts in a day teaching in relation to a typical person’s 8 hour work day illustrates your misunderstanding of what a teacher actually does in a day. Tammy, the teacher’s day does not start at 9:00 am and end at 3:30pm when your child arrives and leaves the classroom. The teacher has a number of responsibilities that occur before and after the attendance of students. Their day is easily 8 hours between creating units/lesson plans, creating tests, work sheets, etc and grading the same. Believe me, when a teacher puts in noon hour supervision or coaches your child in sports or the arts, it is overtime in their day. Overtime that is either not compensated because “they do it for the good of the children.” If it is compensated in the form of EDOs, it is at a fraction of their salary, not double time like most people would enjoy. I would challenge your statement about finding people in the community to provide these coaching opportunities. It just isn’t factual.
          Degrading statements made toward teachers who are contract bargaining by using tantrum analogys is just shameful journalism. Would we say the same about our beloved life saving RCMP, most of which currently earn 6 figure incomes within five years of service and have contracts to ensure they are always paid in the top five police forces in the country? Be careful with that.

          • I don’t understand where Tammy is degrading to teachers. I think everyone would gladly pay great teachers what they are asking for and then some. The problem is that you have to pay it as a collective. I’m sorry, while most teachers are good, there are some that are not.

            I don’t understand why teachers are so against merit pay. If you are a good teacher you will make more money. Teachers are so afraid of test scores. Why? Everyone knows who the great teachers are before they even look at a test score. I will give more merit to a pop quiz than a PAT. If they based it on the PAT alone i would totally go to bat for the teachers!. There has to be some type of measure though and i hope it’s choice . I don’t know, if i was a dedicated hardworking teacher I would resent the ones that were not. I wouldn’t be defending them. Charters also give teachers a choice.

            As hard as it was to go back to work, I at least had the opportunity to choose a great dayhome in which to leave my son. I had a choice and i did my research and made an excellent one. (I can’t even imagine having to turn him over to state run daycare) Then they start school and your choices become very limited.

            It’s funny, I never hesitated in putting my children in public school. I received a very good K-12 Public Education. Wow, lots can change in a generation. Unfortunately i have no choice, I have no charter schools in my area. I would even pay for a private school if there were any non-religious private schools in my city.

            Nobody is blaming the teachers. It’s the system we don’t like. Wouldn’t you like the freedom to really shine as a teacher. I know most teachers put in long hours and really care about their students and it’s about time they started getting recognized.

            This is why choice is so important. If you believe in progressive education you can send your child to a progressive charter school (and happily work in one, with like minded peers), if you believe in traditional education you can choose that route. Then everyone is happy. It also cuts down on the bureaucracy and believe me i’m ALL about that! Leaves more money for great teachers, where it’s much better spent!

        • I am continually amused with the comments on both sides. Merit pay is an interesting concept but in the end very expensive to administer. Who develops the measurements (tests)? Who evaluates them? Are these adminstered provincially/locally? What is to be assessed? The provincial government can’t even find someone to speak on their behalf…hence the fearless SSBA leader…so how on earth could the ministry ever begin to answer the aforementioned questions? If the ministry did conduct these tests then when would the results be shared? Within a timely manner? Those of you who speak in absolutes must have a very easy existence as you do little to understand that which is around you.

  3. there may not be enough funds to cover even one strike day. there is a contingency fund, but we were told that likely we would not get paid for any days, including the day we took on Thursday. Just so you know.

  4. Tammy, if what the teachers are asking for alarms you perhaps you should look at what the doctors just got.One of the comments in the Star was “The new pay scheme will give doctors a choice between putting in minimal effort or taking steps to improve patient care and reaping the financial benefits .” You need to investigate those numbers if you think what the teachers are asking for is unreasonable. And, they are actually comparing their wages to Alberta…..imagine that!

    • Michele says:

      The teachers contract needs to include performance bonuses and a pay structure which awards doing extra rather than paying good and bad teachers alike.

      • I think this is an excellent point. However, in my experience (and I realize, I haven’t met every single teacher in the province), if we give bonuses to the good teachers, we’d be handing out a whole lot of bonuses. All the teachers I have encountered in my career as a student, parent, and teacher-spouse have been outstanding professionals who deserve more respect (and more money) than what the government is offering.

  5. Fantastic post, Tammy. I will definitely check in with you again.

    What gets me steamed about the debate on teacher compensation is the constant comparisons to professions with similar educational requirements. ie “isn’t my four year degree worth the same as a…”

    No it’s not.

    Some careers pay more than others. It is a question of supply and demand.

    If money is important to you, before investing tens of thousands of dollars in a post secondary education, do a payback calculation. Compare your dream career to reasonable alternate careers. Go in with your eyes open. If the numbers don’t stack up, then at least recognize that you choose teaching because you love teaching.

  6. saskmom says:

    Excellent post. How about issues of tenure versus contract. There are many terrible teachers out there. They need to be weeded out and tenure usually prevents this. It’s not always the parents or the community or poverty issues – even though terrible teachers usually lay the blame there. Even kids from the worst home environments can do well under a skilled teacher because they will want to be there. We need to see more quality teaching before they get paid more. I’d have no problem paying more taxes if it could ensure my child had a quality teacher, but terrible teachers are impossible to fire. Make it easy to get rid of them. Excellent teachers are rare, but with all the education at home that we do in our household anyway, even a sufficient teacher would be a relief for us.

  7. While I realize your metaphor isn’t meant to be an exact science, I’d be curious to know why Daddy can give other siblings a pair of $500 jeans, but not this sibling? Especially since this sibling has only ever thrown a temper tantrum once in 70+ years.

  8. Ken Adams says:

    Hi i am a carpenter with local 1985. And for what it is worth I think it is ridiculous that anyone would consider not giving the teachers a pay hike of at least 12% over 3 years. To refuse this only cheapens our province if we are not willing to pay our professionals then what are we. The straw chewing hicks that we are seen for by the rest of the country. I for one think that all our government employees are worth a lot more than they are paid. If you do not like it why dont you leave the province. You have to consider when compared to my trade teachers pay is a joke i made just under $100000 as a first year apprentice. How long would it take for a teacher to make that. I want the best for my children and I am willing to pay for it. To the teachers hang in there I can watch the kids.

    • ken, you make that kind of money because there is a demand for your services. if there was no demand you would have to lower the amount you would charge for jobs

      • Interesting. There is no demand for teachers. Teachers, then, are a commodity. They are only deserving of fair pay if there are not many of them. Wow. I would think your children would be more valuable to you than that. The government cannot continue to treat these valuable employees with disrespect and expect that teachers will be content. Happy teachers = happy students. We owe them our support, and that includes a raise.

  9. I want to be supportive of the teacher’s, yet every day that school is closed I lose $200 in wages because I can’t go to work unless I have somewhere to take my kids.

  10. Heather says:

    Bravo! This is a fantastic article! I grew up with a single mom who was a teacher. I have all the respect in the world for teachers. Well…I did. I have to admit I am started to loose it. I think the way things are being handled is ridiculous. The comparison of the child demanding the $500 pair of jeans hit the nail on the head. That’s how I see it too. And let’s face it…if you gave in every time your child threw a tantrum, you would have awfully spoiled children…

    BTW – that doesn’t mean that I’m against giving a raise. A small but regular wage increase is only fair. I think in this case they are asking for way too much and the way they are going about it is all wrong. That’s my 2 cents.

  11. I normally do not take the time to post comment on articles such as these. This is one exception.
    Firstly, the author of this article somehow seems to think there is a stark difference between the STF and the teachers of the province. That is to say, she eagerly slams the STF for its actions in contract bargaining but then attempts to save face with the “…selfless, hardworking teachers…” Who does the author think makes up the membership of the STF?
    The second point I wish to touch on is the conversation surrounding teacher’s time off versus the time they put in coaching, providing supervision, etc. Anyone who suggests to you that a teacher’s day starts the moment they enter the classroom at roughly 9:00 am with students and ends at roughly 3:30 when those student leave is sadly mistaken. Prep time does not cover the numerous hours it takes to create lessons, create exams, grade work, prepare report cards, prepare for parent teacher interviews and so forth. Anyone who suggests that teachers are merely making up time by coaching, camping, providing artistic direction for concerts and so forth, to bring themselves up to an 8 hour work day that a typical person may work, is ill informed. Rest assured, teachers put in well over 8 hours a day most days to ensure your children are receiving their education. When teachers put in extra time coaching and preparing out of school experiences such as camp trips, this time is on occasion compensated by EDO(but not in every division). It is not compensated hour for hour. A teacher must actually work the equivalent of a few days work to get one day off! Show me another profession where overtime is paid at a fraction of one’s salary?!
    Point three. The author discusses how she is “choked” that Saskatchewan teachers might compare themselves to the Northwest territories based on cost of living. She does the same with Alberta and suggests this is unreasonable. I will direct the author now to simple geography as it relates to the Northwest Territories. See that little border line at the top of Saskatchewan. Yes, just on the other side of it is the Northwest territories. True, the cost of milk there is quite expensive, as are other things. Now look just south of the same line. Welcome back to Saskatchewan. Guess what. Just below that line, the cost of milk and other supplies is just as expensive up there for the same reasons. Know what else. Saskatchewan teachers also live and work up there too. As for Alberta and the huge difference in cost of living? Peple, this is an old mentality. Saskatchewan is closing that gap quickly. I will not attempt to demonstrate this in a thousand ways or even suggest its in every town and city in this province. However, when I look around Regina, I see 1000sq foot two story homes selling for $360, 000! Furthermore, lets not kid ourselves into believing that every town in Alberta is as costly as Calgary either!
    Finally, I would love for you all to know that the government of our province not only walked away from the bargaining table but that it has also declined the use of an arbitrator. If the government feels its position is so very strong and fair, what have they to lose in getting a third party in there to resolve this issue?
    Closing thought…anyone notice when the nurses got 35%? I’m certain someone will be foolish enough to suggest it’s because of the work that they do that makes them that much more valuable….wonder who educated nurses…and doctors…and journalists….

  12. I have never called anyone a fool in my life but you certainly fall under the definition.
    There is nothing worse than a biased person pretending to be unbiased. “I want to support the teachers, I really do!” I call bull twaddle you are a ninny.

    Apparently working with or for or under John Gormley has ravaged brain cells that may at one time have existed. You are dedicated to a smear campaign against people and things you obviously know nothing about.

    Right you coached two ball teams and didn’t expect pay….you choice right? Well guess what, most teacher are not given a “c.h.o.i.c.e” about extra curricular activities this is an expected “unwitten” demand by the school boards and parents that teachers put in time coaching, organiziing, chaperoning and cleaning up after all these unpaid for duties many of which are held between 3:30 and 5 pm. So where is that 5.5 hour day? Oh, and then these teachers go home if they are lucky by 5:30 pm and spend another 2 – 2.5 hours lesson planning or correcting.

    Teachers are not paid for summer vacations and very few are not back at least for a while by the second week in August. Teachers are not being paid for the days they are off work during this dispute so the pot dwindling is a real hoot. Yes, its the greedy teacher who is losing pay that they probably won’t get back that you are slamming it is not the greedy ignorant journalist who will do anything to get a following so they can achieve they dream job of sitting at home writting this drivel.

    Good lord save us from duplicitous whore-mongering journalists.

    • hello – i am the 1 who wrote that comment about coaching ball, not tammy the origional author, so perhaps an apology should be made to her. who looks like the ninny now? believe it or not there are a few people named tammy out there. i aparently am just a ninny to you…..guess if i would have recieved a better education i would be able to hold a conversion with you. so, most teachers aren’t given a choice to coach? guns are put to their heads??????? what is saskatchewan now? communist china? what does c.h.o.i.c.e stand for? usually when a word is abreviated like that it’s the first letter in a word……..f.y.i.(for your information – see how that works?)…..i’m not a duplicitous whore-mongering journalist, i’m just an idiot trying to work my ass off to support my family (even though i am a “professional” who doen’t make as much as teachers) while listening to the teachers whine because the province won’t pay for them to sit their asses on a beach all summer. by the way, while the teacher strike is on today, one of our neighbors who is a teacher has spent the day doing yard work – TEAR.

    • Teachers Don’t get paid for summer vacation, so then the starting wage of $43,000 for an entry level position is only for 10 months worth of work (not including the roughly month off accumilated during the ten months of service). If thats not enough, I’m sure there are plenty off jobs they could do during the summer months….but wait, like you said, ITS SUMMER VACATION for the teachers, who would want to work while on VACATION. Its not like the Gov. isn’t offering any wage increase, because they certanly are, its just not a ridiculas amount, which is what the children, I mean teachers are expecting. Go whine somewhere else Trudy.

    • Correction, Trudy, teachers are paid a YEARLY salary, so yes you do get paid for 12 months, you just choose to get paid over ten months instead…but nice try, I’ll give you that.

  13. Tammy Robert says:

    Judy and Trudy – When you find an unbiased journalist, call me, please.

    Rest assured, I am not it. Thank you, though (I think).

    As for calling me “greedy, ignorant” and “whore-mongering” – clearly with those type of investigative skills, perhaps you’re the ones who ought to consider journalism?

    As for “bull twaddle you are a ninny”, that just made my day.

    PS – think you mean “fear-mongering”. Unless you’re actually calling me a pimp. Either way, it’s still funny. – tam.

  14. “When you see a great teacher you are seeing a work of art” -Geoffrey Canada. I love this quote because it’s so true!

  15. Thank you so much Tammy for what you have stated in this article and the most recent one on the students striking. I am the “religious fanatic” that Kathy seems to hate so much. Why? Because I have an opinion that states that as an employee , teachers are subject to the employer..the gov’t. Good grief. I am so sick and tired of these same arguments over and over again~ if you hate your job so much, quit! No one is forcing any teacher to work overtime! Many are not…and they’re making the same $$ as the ones putting in 25 or more hours overtime in a week! If you teachers and STF supporters want something to gripe about, gripe about that! It may come as a shock to many of you but kids are not allowed to be late or miss school without a good reason. Maybe some schools are more lenient than others but in our school an unexcused absence is every absence that is not approved by a doctor or cleared with administration PRIOR to the absence. And we have a 10 class limit in a semester for absences. So..I’m just wondering who’s holding the teachers to account on these strike days? There are teachers in our community who did not rally and did not volunteer . They took 2 days off…shouldn’t I, as a parent, be able to hold them to account? Apparently not. It’s time for SK union employees to get off their high horses and get back to work . If you think that you are under-valued maybe it’s not the money that’s the problem, maybe it’s where you work.

  16. A teacher is not being paid for just a 6 hour day they are beinbg paid for a 10.5 hr day as they teach 196 day instead of the normal 260 8hr days we all put in. When they should be docked the apropriate amount of money. This notion that extra corriculiar is time not paid for is free is a load of huey they are paid for it.

  17. I support the teachers 100%. Your article lost all validity when YOU compared the cost of living in Loreburn to the cost of living in Calgary! Lets compare the cost of living in Bassano, Alberta to the cost of living in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan! You just got caught manipulating information to support your biased opinion!!

  18. New Job? says:

    Teachers know what they are in for when they decide to become a teacher. Nothing has changed in the past many years. They still decided to become a teacher. Why did they become a teacher in the first place? If they are not happy with the pay / job they decided to get educated for maybe its time for them to go back to school pick a job that pays more and get a different degree. Everyone has a choice. I’m sure anyone of the 1200 teaching jobs that Alberta is going eliminate this summer will gladly move to Saskatchewan and fill your position.

  19. I feel it is necessary to point out that, unlike Saskatchewan, teachers in Alberta and Manitoba are not paid the same across the province. What you are paid in those provinces depends which school division you work for and where it is located as cost of living does vary depending on your location. I strongly believe this practice should also take place in Saskatchewan. Also, many teachers in Manitoba don’t even have a dental plan as an option. Just thought I would throw this out there…

Trackbacks

  1. [...] Tammy Robert has a great post about the ongoing dispute between the province and the teachers.  RTW… [...]

Add Your Comment

*