The ongoing labour dispute between members of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union (NSTU) and the provincial government is becoming an increasingly polarizing issue, causing a divide among the province’s students.
Members of the organisation Students for Students say they were surprised to learn that work-to-rule job action would once again begin earlier this week, and are calling for it to come to an end. They say they’re tired of being involved in a political dispute that doesn’t involve them.
“Our initial feelings were disappointment. We feel as through there needs to be a solution that keeps students in mind. That’s why we decided to start our campaign,” said Students For Students co-coordinator Adrian White.
“We’ve lost our student governments, parts of our improv team, lots of school sports and we felt it was important for our schools culture that we step up and do something about it.”
The group says they’re operating with two main goals – to have their voices heard by both the NSTU and the provincial government, and to take back their school year by bringing back the extracurricular activities that were lost as a result of work-to-rule.
“It’s not really that we support or don’t support one group or another,” said co-coordinator Brennan C. Shebib. “We understand where the teachers union is coming from, we understand why they’re doing what they’re doing. And we understand where the governments coming from. We understand why the negotiations have gone the way they’ve gone.
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“However, our message is that no matter what your personal opinion is on the matter, you can unite under this fact that students are being hurt by this.”
White and Shebib, both Grade 12 students, said they hope to grow their organization provincewide and are planning a number of events aimed at restoring moral among students.
The group Students For Teachers says they’re taking a different approach to the dispute and say they will continue to stand behind the province’s teachers.
“Students For Students wants their education to go back to normal. But that’s exactly what the government wants,” said Grade 12 student Manuel Moncayo-Adams.
“The government wants an end to work-to-rule and Students For Students wants an end to work-to-rule so by remaining neutral they’re fighting for the same objectives and putting the future of our education system at risk.”
He said while their group would like to see the two sides come to an agreement, they’re remaining steadfast in their commitment to helping improve the province’s education system.
“We’re fighting for a strong education for our future and for our younger siblings future and for the entire future of Nova Scotia,” said Moncayo-Adams.
“It’s our education that’s at stake. It’s the rising class sizes we’ve seen, a decreasing classroom budget, the more time teachers have to spend doing data entry… we notice that, and that’s why we’re fighting for the teachers.”
A rally in support of NSTU members is being planned for Sunday at Grand Parade in Halifax.
The union’s 9,300 members are expected to vote on the latest tentative agreement on Feb. 8.