Nova Scotia’s teachers have voted against the most recent contract offer from the government.
According to the union, teachers voted 78.5 per cent against the contract. The union is claiming voter turnout was 106 per cent. The union says turnout can exceed 100 per cent because any substitute teacher working on voting day is also allowed to cast a ballot. The Nova Scotia Teachers Union (NSTU) represents more than 9,000 full-time and substitute teachers.
This is the third contract that teachers have voted on in the last year and a half. For each deal, the union recommended that teachers accept the deal, but the last two were rejected by the membership.
NSTU president Liette Doucet told reporters Thursday that teachers “had voiced their opinions” and she “expected” a rejection.
“Teachers are angry. They’re angry that they’re not seeing cooperation from the government that would clearly improve education in Nova Scotia,” Doucet said. “They have been losing trust with the government and I think, just those two things, will have caused that vote number to go up.”
Education Minister Karen Casey said in a statement the results of the vote were “disappointing.”
“I want to assure parents and guardians that their child’s education is a priority for government,” Casey said. “We must now take time to consider the next step.”
Doucet won’t resign
Even though teachers have rejected another deal recommended by the executive, when asked if she would resign, Doucet said “no.”
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She said the union brought the latest deal to teachers because of “improvements” from the agreement in October, including “mechanisms” to deal with classroom issues.
“The only disconnect really, it’s not between the executive and the membership, it’s between what the membership is asking for and what the government is willing or prepared to agree to,” she said.
She said if the government would make immediate changes, such as establishing discipline and attendance policies, as well as providing more resources including specialists for students, it would “make teachers very happy.”
Issues with deals
Nova Scotia NDP leader Gary Burrill said in a statement shortly after results were released that over the past few months parents, students and teachers “made it clear that the status quo” in classrooms “could not continue.”
“This Liberal government is willing to sacrifice the education of a generation and burn out the most qualified group of teachers in the history of the province to protect their balanced budget,” Burrill said.
This deal, reached in January, shortened the proposed wage freeze by four months and offered teachers two extra paid days off, which the government contentiously said were to be used as preparation or marking days.
Many teachers spoke out against the deal because they said it failed to address immediate workplace concerns such as class size and composition and it didn’t reinstate the long service award. However, other teachers who preferred to remain anonymous said they would vote to accept the latest deal.
Work-to-rule to continue
Casey told reporters early Thursday that no matter the result of the vote, there will be a period of transition when the “work-to-rule no longer exists.”
But Doucet said Thursday night that work-to-rule would continue. However, in a release shortly after the results were released, she said the union was unsure what the government would do.
“We don’t know if they will agree to go back to the negotiating table, if they will legislate a contract, change the terms and conditions of employment or lock us out,” Doucet said while referring to wage legislation the government had passed but not enacted.
She told reporters union will meet with its executive next week to discuss options.
The vote was pushed from Wednesday after a mix of snow, freezing rain and ice pellets closed schools. With schools closed, teachers were unable to retrieve security keys needed to vote – teachers have to show up in schools to sign for the keys, verifying they received one.
– With files from Marieke Walsh, Global News