Nova Scotia Teachers Union President-elect Paul Wozney says his top priority is a better working relationship with the provincial government.
Wozney was elected in a run-off vote Thursday after an election on May 25 failed to produce a clear winner. He beat candidate Grant Frost with 58 per cent of the vote. Only 67.5 per cent of the union’s 10,500 members cast a ballot.
Wozney inherits a union that has been in a near-constant battle with the provincial government for more than two years, and staged a walkout in February 2017 following months of job action. But he says a better relationship with Stephen McNeil’s Liberals is possible.
“The government (has) kind of … gone out of its way to suggest that the NSTU leadership has been an obstacle towards working with teachers,” he said. “Well, you know, those concerns are addressed. There’s a new president, there’s a healthy turnover in the provincial executive. So whatever obstacle previously existed to being able to work with the union, really, that excuse is gone.”
READ MORE: Nova Scotia Teachers Union elects high school teacher as new president
The NSTU executive recommended three separate tentative agreements to its members between December of 2015 and February of 2017. All three were rejected by union membership, and the government imposed a contract when it passed Bill 75. That deal expires in February of 2019, meaning another round of bargaining is upcoming.
“My invitation to the government is: let’s work together before we ever get to the table,” Wozney said. “So when we get to the table, we have a foundation of trust that will allow us to reach a collective agreement that’s good for students, for the union and the province.
WATCH: Grant Frost discusses upcoing NSTU presidential election
Incumbent president Liette Doucet is staying in her role until Aug. 1. That’s also the date that principals, vice-principals and other senior supervisory staff will be moved out of the NSTU and into a new association affiliated with the union.
A spokesperson for the Department of Education says the approximately 1,000 members will have the option to return to the classroom and remain in the union, if job opportunities are available, though “the vast majority are not returning to classroom.”
Members of the new professional association will be limited to teaching 50 per cent of the time.
READ MORE: Nova Scotia Teachers Union vote for president goes to run-off, incumbant Doucet out
The NSTU was extremely critical of government’s decision to remove principals and vice principals from the union this winter, following a recommendation by education consultant Avis Glaze. The union voted in favour of an illegal strike in February.
Wozney says working with that association is another top priority for him.
“A really effective, open, forthright working relationship with whoever the school administrators association elects to represent them is going to be key, to preserve as much of the collegiality that existed between teachers and principals when they were siblings within the NSTU,” he said.
The association is affiliated with the NSTU, meaning its members will pay fees to the union but will not be able to vote.
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