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Nova Scotia teachers vote in favour of strike mandate

Class size, composition, and money among reasons for strike vote: Teachers
As teachers vote on whether to give their union a strike mandate, Halifax-area teachers explain why they're voting for a strike. Global's legislative reporter Marieke Walsh explains.

Nova Scotia teachers have voted in favour of a strike mandate following the rejection of two tentative agreements.

Ninety-six per cent of teachers voted in favour of the strike mandate, the Nova Scotia Teacher’s Union (NSTU) said in a release Tuesday evening.

“This sends a strong message to the government that the NSTU membership is united and we are looking for solutions, we are looking to move forward and that we’re ready to take a stand for what matters in Nova Scotia,” NSTU President Liette Doucet said following the vote.

The provincial government said they were disappointed by the outcome, especially after reaching agreements twice with the union.

“The outcome of this evening’s vote is a disappointment for parents and students, and for government,” Education Minister Karen Casey said in a release. “This vote comes after reaching two tentative agreements — both recommended by the Nova Scotia Teachers’ Union to its membership.”

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

She said she believes a strike is not the best solution for teachers to help students.

“The teachers’ union admitted a strike will cause short-term pain for students — that’s not the best way to address challenges in our classrooms. The best way to do that is by working with us to avoid disruptions for today’s students,” Casey said.

Doucet told reporters their entire membership voted, as well as many substitute teachers.

By noon on Tuesday, nearly 80 per cent of teachers had already cast their vote. The NSTU was recommending members vote in favour of strike action and was expecting a strong mandate.

“The government has to realize that to make changes in the education system, change costs money,” Doucet told The Canadian Press Tuesday.

Teachers who spoke with Global News said class size was their biggest issue in high school and junior high schools.

In addition to class sizes, working conditions and the termination of the long service award were top of mind for teachers throughout the months of negotiations.

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READ MORE: Nova Scotia teachers union vote on strike mandate after rejecting proposed deal

A conciliator’s report on negotiations was filed Oct. 18, marking the start of a 44-day cooling off period.

The teachers can’t take any job action until that period is over, meaning the earliest a strike could occur is December.

A strike mandate does not necessarily mean teachers will walk off the job, they could take other job action. Doucet says job action could include a regular strike, work-to-rule or rotating strikes.

Nova Scotia teachers have never gone on strike before, but have held strike votes in the past.

— With files from The Canadian Press