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Provincial basketball tournament might be cancelled if STF decides to take job action

About 20 teams competed in Moose Jaw and other towns across Saskatchewan over the weekend to qualify for the HOOPLA tournament.  (Roger Morgan - image credit)
About 20 teams competed in Moose Jaw and other towns across Saskatchewan over the weekend to qualify for the HOOPLA tournament. (Roger Morgan - image credit)

One of Saskatchewan's largest amateur sports tournaments might be cancelled because of the contract battle between teachers and the provincial government, organizers fear.

Whether the players take to the court in Moose Jaw on Thursday for HOOPLA, a provincial basketball tournament, depends on whether the Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation (STF) lays out strike action that would prevent teachers from taking part in extracurricular activities.

"As a sports community it's really difficult to be making these big plans with the cloud hanging over us — that it may not come to fruition," said Roger Morgan, a former teacher and the current chair of the HOOPLA organizing committee and athletic commissioner for the Prairie South School Division.

Morgan says everyone on the HOOPLA organizing committee is or was a teacher and supports the STF and their drive for an agreement, but that wouldn't allay the disappointment if the tournament is cancelled.

STF has often provided notice for job action ahead of the mandated 48 hours, and Morgan expects they will learn soon whether the tournament will go ahead.

"It's been well over a year in the process of making this happen, and now we're literally days away and there's rumblings that it may or may not happen and we're just sitting and waiting," he told CBC News.

Dozens of teams, 700 athletes expected

According to Morgan, it's likely the second largest amateur sports tournament in the province.

In a memo sent to the provincial government, Education Minister Jeremy Cockrill, other MLAs and the STF, Morgan said that a 10-person volunteer committee has been meeting for the past 16 months planning the event. About 48 teams with more than 700 athletes are expected to attend.

This weekend, five regional tournaments in Moose Jaw will determine which teams will play in HOOPLA, with 48 tournaments around the province underway to determine who will join the championship tournament.

"Every hotel room in Moose Jaw has been booked for over a year, restaurants have arranged for additional staff for the weekend," the memo reads.

Some of these players, vying for a spot in the HOOPLA provincial basketball tournament, will not make it to the tournament, even if they win. The tournament's fate lies in contract negotiations between the Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation and the provincial government.
Some of these players, vying for a spot in the HOOPLA provincial basketball tournament, will not make it to the tournament, even if they win. The tournament's fate lies in contract negotiations between the Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation and the provincial government.

Some of these players, vying for a spot in the HOOPLA provincial basketball tournament, will not make it to the tournament, even if they win. The tournament's fate lies in contract negotiations between the Saskatchewan Teachers' Federation and the provincial government. (Roger Morgan)

If it doesn't go through, he estimates the local sports association would lose more than $6,000 and the Saskatchewan High School Athletic Association would lose upwards of $15,000 in revenue and expenses.

"The perception of most people is that 'It's a high school basketball tournament and if it happens or doesn't happen there's not a lot of impact,'" he said. "It encompasses the entire city."

STF and provincial government still at odds

The STF and the provincial government blame each other for the failed negotiations and not returning to the bargaining table.

The union says it wants to discuss class size and complexity as part of its contract agreement. Cockrill has said the government doesn't believe those issues belong at the bargaining table, and say offered a significant salary increase to teachers.

"The decision for different job action or different job sanctions, that's solely the decision of the STF leadership, and again I understand their members gave them that mandate. But, I mean, these actions do affect kids and families around the province," Cockrill said Thursday.

Saskatchewan Education Minister Jeremy Cockrill speaks to media as Saskatchewan Teachers Federation president Samantha Becotte and other members of the STF look on.
Saskatchewan Education Minister Jeremy Cockrill speaks to media as Saskatchewan Teachers Federation president Samantha Becotte and other members of the STF look on.

Saskatchewan Education Minister Jeremy Cockrill speaks to media as Saskatchewan Teachers Federation president Samantha Becotte and other members of the STF look on. (Adam Hunter/CBC News)

STF president Samantha Becotte laid blame for the possible cancellation squarely on Cockrill.

"I know he didn't say the words directly but, effectively, the minister of education is cancelling HOOPLA. He is cancelling several trips that are planned coming up over the break," Becotte said Thursday.

Becotte was asked several times why she was blaming the minister when the decision about job action is the union's.

"We have been very clear that we don't want these actions," she said. "But we have said and we have given notice that we can get back to the table. We can find a resolution very quickly if there is a willingness to engage in this process."