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Government holds off on imposing contract on Nova Scotia teachers

Nova Scotia teachers are seen marching on a Nova Scotia MLA's office on Friday, Nov. 25. File/Global News

The Nova Scotia Liberal government is hitting pause on controversial legislation that would impose a contract on public school teachers.

A briefing was supposed to take place at 9:30 a.m. Monday to explain the bill to reporters. Instead, Government House Leader Michel Samson told journalists the government was going to recess the legislature and delay the bill briefing.

READ MORE: Nova Scotia government closes all public schools as of Monday

Schools are closed to students Monday, after the government announced Saturday that the Nova Scotia Teachers Union‘s (NSTU) plan to work-to-rule starting this week compromised student safety on school grounds.

The emergency sitting of the legislature was called by the government that same day in order to pass a bill that would impose a contract on the NSTU.

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That contract would seen a two-year wage freeze for teachers, followed by a three per cent wage increase over the last two years. It would also freeze the long-service award retroactive to April 2015, when the last collective agreement expired. The new contract would be in place until July 2019.

READ MORE: Nova Scotia teachers express frustration with #ReadyToTeach hashtag on Twitter

Samson would not say if the government still plans to introduce the legislated contract. Instead he said talks were ongoing to address the government’s questions about student safety while teachers work-to-rule.

The legislature recessed just after 11 a.m. Monday, with opposition MLAs voting against the recess. Samson said the House would resume “if necessary.” He would not say if students will again be out of class on Tuesday.

READ MORE: Nova Scotia parents say children being used as ‘pawns’ in political chess match

Premier Stephen McNeil, Education Minister Karen Casey, Justice Minister Diana Whalen, and Liberal MLA Patricia Arab were all absent from the legislature. Independent MLA Andrew Younger was also absent. McNeil and Casey were not available to speak to reporters as of publishing time.

Samson would not say who the government was speaking with, but the NSTU later confirmed that it received a call from the government just before the announcement was made.

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However, the NSTU says they are not “in talks,” and that they can’t start talks with the government until their executive meets.

“I’m not really sure what the government is looking for,” NSTU President Liette Doucet said.

“We have assured them that student safety is the number one priority, teachers are at school, teachers are waiting to teach their students.”

READ MORE: Nova Scotia public split on who to support in teachers dispute: poll

Opposition Leader Jamie Baillie called the government’s actions a “farce” and accused the liberals of incompetence.

“Open the schools up, put the kids back in class, return to the bargaining table,” Baillie said. “This is what adults do, they bargain, they don’t put our students out of school to make a political point.”

Both the Progressive Conservatives and the New Democrats called on the government to fully withdraw the proposed bill.

Parents and students across the province have been rallying in support of their teachers, who still reported for duty Monday morning despite the schools being closed to students.

READ MORE: Students rally outside Nova Scotia legislature in support of teachers

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