The Nova Scotia government has decided it won’t amend the legislated teachers contract, based on proposals from the union.
Bill 75 has been working its way through the legislative process, and passed the second last stage in the legislature as protesters again walked on Province House Friday.
The Nova Scotia Teachers Union asked for several amendments including eliminating limits on any future work-to-rule job action and going with a more generous wage offer that the government previously agreed to.
Asked late Thursday night, Premier Stephen McNeil said his government would look at the amendments, but he confirmed Friday none would be accepted.
“We drafted a bill that reflects what our members are hearing from teachers across the province,” McNeil told reporters just before midnight Thursday.
Rejecting the proposed amendments will almost certainly trigger a drawn-out court battle.
“If you refuse to make the changes that we are suggesting then it is very clear you do not want to protect the right to strike and you will be reminded so in a court of law,” the union’s executive director Joan Ling told a committee Thursday.
Tory Leader Jamie Baillie says the prospect of a court challenge is one of the main reasons why his party is opposing Bill 75. Speaking to reporters on Friday, Baillie said a court battle would cost taxpayers “millions” and he’d “rather see that money go into classrooms.”
But threats of legal action are not a reason to back down McNeil said Friday.
“We can’t just say every time someone is going to disagree with us, then lets just give in,” he said. “We believe very strongly that this will withstand a court challenge.”
McNeil hasn’t yet ruled out all proposed amendments to Bill 75.
NDP MLA Dave Wilson is proposing that the bill allow for an independent arbitrator on the working conditions committee. The arbitrator would have the power to decide on issues that the different groups on the committee can’t agree on.
The third tentative agreement that teachers rejected included an arbitration option, but it limited the amount of money that an arbitrator could decide on. The money limit wasn’t in Wilson’s proposed amendment.
McNeil said his government will consider accepting the amendment if the New Democrats agree to a budget limit.
The Progressive Conservatives said they aren’t proposing any amendments to the bill because they believe it shouldn’t be on the table at all.
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