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Tuesday, 24 May 2011 09:15

Teachers' strike concerns Chinook students

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By Chris Jaster — This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

In an attempt to raise the government’s and public’s awareness of how important collective bargaining is, Saskatchewan’s teachers are going on strike Wednesday and Thursday.

Even before they walk out, however, they have already attracted the attention of their students.

Friday’s announcement that the teachers will go on strike for 48 hours Wednesday and Thursday has Curtis Dyck concerned about the rest of the school year.

“I'm not too happy about it,” said the Grade 12 Swift Current Comprehensive High School student. “I mean I'm graduating this year and with the whole situation going on I feel there might be a chance that something might happen to stop that or whatever. I'm kind of not impressed with the situation.”

Dyck, who is planning to take youth ministry at Ambrose University College next year, classifies himself as an average student academically. Although he knows students have the right to challenge courses, he feels if the teachers implement more sanctions to jeopardize his school year, then he won’t know enough to succeed on those exams.

Dyck said he needs the time in the classroom to continue learning to be prepared for final exams.
The Swift Current student isn’t the only one who is frustrated by the teachers’ planned walk out.

Hailey Clark, a Grade 10 student from Vanguard, was very frustrated when the teachers shut down the schools for a study session May 5. She had a major presentation planned for that day which was cancelled due to the job action, meaning everything she bought for the project went to waste.

“It's just a shame that people don't get to do it because teachers go on strike. I'm not for it,” said Clark, who expects to do yardwork on her two extra days off.

“It is worrying me (that the strikes may affect my grades). We already miss so much school for PA days and stuff like that. Now we have these two days off in the middle of the week (which) is not really great.”

This extra stress being put on students is exactly what the Government-Trustee Bargaining Committee didn’t want to see happen.

Sandi Urban-Hall, the spokesperson for the committee, said each school division and the Ministry of Education are working on contingency plans in case they feel the school year may be jeopardized by job action.

She is disappointed the teachers’ action is having such a negative effect.

“To place undue stress on students like that we feel wouldn't be appropriate and we would call on the STF to assure students that their Grade 12 and opportunities following Grade 12 won't be impacted,” she said.

This entire situation has come about as Saskatchewan’s teachers have been without a contract since Aug. 31, 2010. The teachers were initially asking for a 12 per cent increase over one year but were countered with a 5.5 per cent increase over three years.

The teachers then staged their one-day study session May 5 before returning to the bargaining table asking for a 16.3 per cent increase or to send the issue to arbitration. The Government-Trustee Bargaining Committee countered with a 5.5 per cent increase over three years and modifications to the compensation tiers.

The Teachers’ Bargaining Committee found that unacceptable and walked away from the table and organized the two-day strike.

Despite having some students unhappy with their action, some students understand the reasoning.
Kayle Trout, a Grade 8 student at O. M. Irwin is happy to have two extra days off school so he can go to Calgary.

Alishia Beach, a Grade 8 student from Herbert who is the daughter of a teacher, believes teachers are under-appreciated and deserve what they’re asking.

“I think the government should give them the 16.3 per cent increase over three years because they may work only 10 months a year and six hours a day, but they do so much more after school,” said Beach, who plans to spend her days off working with her 4-H calves. “I know my mom is always marking and getting stuff prepared. She spends hours at home doing that too.

“There's just a bunch of events that they have to go to as well to make them better teachers.”

Dyck and Clark disagree.

Clark believes a 16.3 per cent hike over three years is too steep while Clark believes the teachers are just getting greedy by asking for too much.

Regardless of their thoughts on the teachers situation, Clark, Dyck and Beach all want to see it resolved very quickly.

“I hope they don't continue on with this. I hope they can figure out a solution so that everyone can finish off school here and graduate,” said Dyck.

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