October 19, 2016 6:56 pm
Updated: October 28, 2016 1:10 pm

N.S. teachers agree to talk working conditions away from negotiating table

Nova Scotia is warning families to come up with a contingency plan now, in case students are forced out of the classroom during a possible teachers strike.

File / Global News

The Nova Scotia Teachers Union has agreed to talk about working conditions with the government while contract talks remain at a standstill.

Education Minister Karen Casey sent the union a letter Monday requesting that it agree to reviving one element of the rejected tentative agreement.

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READ MORE: Contract offer rejected: what happens next for Nova Scotia teachers and students?

The two sides, along with representatives from the school boards, will meet before the end of the month to formally establish the Partnership on Systemic Working Conditions.

That partnership was criticised by union membership during the contract talks because teachers said it wasn’t binding.

Union president Liette Doucet said the new committee doesn’t change the union’s call for a strike mandate.

READ MORE: Clock to start on potential Nova Scotia teachers strike after report filed

Doucet said the union agreed to the committee because it wants “teachers’ voices” to be heard.

However, she said the only way for the union to ensure the government follows through on changes to working conditions is for them to be part of the collective agreement. Because of that, she says a strike vote is still required.

“We need to do that to ensure that what we are looking for is in an agreement, if it is not in the agreement it is not enforceable,” she said.

Premier Stephen McNeil says by hiving off issues around working conditions at a separate table, the ongoing contract dispute will be about money.

READ MORE: Labour unrest looms as Nova Scotia legislature returns for fall sitting

The working conditions group is expected to hold its first meeting within the next two weeks. Teachers will vote on whether to agree to a strike mandate on Tuesday.

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