Education workers holding breath as budget day approaches: education rep

Jackie Christianson says there is uncertainty as to just how big of a hit education will take in the upcoming provincial budget.

3.5% wage rollback has already been worked into budget despite opposition and legal challenge

Jackie Christianson delivers a box full of letters which detail the concern regarding funding cuts and education funding in Saskatchewan. (Adam Hunter/CBC)

Education workers are holding their breath and morale is low as they prepare for the reveal of next Wednesday's provincial budget, says one CUPE representative.

Jackie Christianson is the chairperson of the education board which represents approximately 8,000 CUPE education workers in the province. 

On Thursday, she delivered a box full of letters from concerned parents to Opposition MLA and education critic Carla Beck. Christianson said the letters are intended for Education Minister Don Morgan and Premier Brad Wall. 

Jackie Christianson said cutting support workers' hours and wages would mean "an increased workload for everyone". (Adam Hunter/CBC)

The concerns are about cuts to education, wage rollbacks and what constitutes "transformational change."

"We know something heavy is coming down and we are concerned," she said of the budget. "We haven't even recovered from the budget cuts of this last year."

Finance Minister Kevin Doherty has projected a $1.2 billion deficit and the government has been working toward a 3.5 per cent wage rollback for public sector employees.

"I have no idea what a 3.5 per cent rollback will mean," Christianson said. 

She said she hopes the cards will serve as a wake-up call to the Premier. 

"It's going to come to a point where [workers] can't afford to stay in education any more," she said. "And what will that mean to the children?"

Morgan said the 3.5 per cent rollback is a wide ranging measure, not necessarily focused on teachers or education specifically. (Adam Hunter/CBC)

Morgan said he understands the concerns educational workers have and said the government will work through their concerns with them. 

Morgan addressed the 3.5 per cent rollback as all encompassing. 

"That doesn't necessarily mean teachers ... That's the overall cost, whether it be by attrition or by administration folks," Morgan said. 

The government is going to negotiate at the bargaining table, not the media or floor of legislative assembly, Morgan added, echoing statements made by the finance minister.

Morgan said operating funding for education divisions has gone up 33 per cent since the Saskatchewan Party has been elected. 

"Our goal should be commit our resources to the kids and to the teachers," Morgan said of the 170,000 students and 12,000 teachers in the province. 

Concern, stress and uncertainty in the province's education sector are unparalleled in recent years, according to Beck. 

"People who have worked in the sector for 30 years are telling me they've never seen it like this," Beck said.

Beck said the concerns are important and must be heard by cabinet. 

"These voices are not going to go away."

With files from Adam Hunter