Nova Scotia Teachers Union expecting strike mandate next week
In just four days, thousands of unionized public school teachers across Nova Scotia will take part in a strike vote.
The Nova Scotia Teachers Union (NSTU) says teachers need more support in the classroom and are concerned with the government’s plan to implement recommendations from the Glaze Report.
“Teachers are very upset. They do not like the direction the government is taking,” said Liette Doucet, NSTU President.
“They are very upset that the government isn’t willing to put a hold on what’s happening and sit down and talk to us about these recommendations and the impact it will have on our schools and our students.”
The union is expecting a strike mandate.
Ron Stockton, a labour and employment lawyer, says that since there is a collective agreement in place, under the law any job action by teachers would be illegal.
“The difference here, and I think it’s what upsets the teachers, is that they didn’t get to decide whether they’d go into this collective agreement. This was imposed upon them,” Stockton said. “It still expects the teachers to abide by the law but the government’s broken the big bargain.”
Stockton says this kind of labour unrest for teachers is unusual in Nova Scotia.
“I think it goes to show that they really have to be pushed very far before they’ll take this kind of action,” he said.
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If teachers vote in favour of a strike mandate, Doucet says a provincial executive would decide what type of action may be taken, if any.
“It could mean any type of job action. It could mean no job action. It will depend on the situation,” Doucet said.
“What we’re hoping is that the government will change its mind and put a stop to their plans.”
For his part, Zach Churchill, the province’s education minister, says he has been travelling Nova Scotia, speaking with teachers.
“I don’t want to hypothesize what the vote is going to be on Tuesday. We don’t know what that vote is going to be,” Churchill said.
“The conversations I’ve been having with teachers and principals have actually been very productive. A lot of people are open to these changes. They just want to be certain what they mean to them.”
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If teachers do decide to take part in illegal job action, there could be hefty penalties.
Stockton says teachers could be fined under two sections of Teachers’ Collective Bargaining Act. Individual teachers could penalized up to $1,200 a day, while the union could see fines up to $10,300 a day.
“If we do take illegal job action, there is a risk of penalty, absolutely. That will be up to government to decide if they are going to speak to the courts and levy any of those penalties,” Doucet said.
“Right now we are not concerned about that. We are concerned about standing up for public education. Teachers are very concerned about the future for their students and they’re willing to do what is necessary.”
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