June 22, 2018 9:12 am
Updated: June 23, 2018 4:55 pm

N.S. school psychologists, speech pathologists raise concerns over hiring of non-union workers

WATCH: The Nova Scotia Teachers Union has filed a grievance over the provincial government's new hiring plan for certain school-based positions. Steve Silva reports.

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The Halifax Regional Centre for Education is hiring non-unionized employees for school social worker, school psychologist, and speech language pathologist positions, and the Nova Scotia Teachers Union has filed a grievance over the issue.

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Global News has obtained screen shots of notices on the HRSCE’s internal hiring system. The notice informs job applicants that those who do not hold a specialist or regular teaching license will be hired “as members of the non-union Professional Employees Group and will be 12-month employees, subject to the terms and conditions for PEG employees as determined by the Halifax Regional Centre for Education.”

The notice goes on to say that further details about the jobs will be posted in the coming weeks. Salaries and terms and conditions of employment are “currently under review,” according to the Department of Education.

However, a spokesperson for the department says there is no such thing as the Professional Employees Group, and suggested the notice may not have been worded correctly.

“Term contracts are only intended for those being hired as temporary replacements for existing positions – such as when a person is out on maternity leave, etc.,” spokesperson Heather Fairbairn wrote in an emailed statement. Fairbairn said any new positions or vacancies will be permanent, full-time, non-teaching positions.

READ MORE: Nova Scotia Teachers Union accusing province of changing teacher certification system

“By professional employees group, the posting only means these are professional non-teaching positions. This is about providing more psychology and speech language services to families and students in more flexible ways.”

The union disagrees.

“The NSTU made it very clear that we would work with the government to ensure that what it is that they are looking for by way of different types of working situations could be worked out, and the government had no desire to make those agreements with us,” said outgoing NSTU president Liette Doucet.

Meanwhile, a group of school psychologists and speech language pathologists has sent an open letter to Education Minister Zach Churchill calling for a halt to changes to specialist certification, job descriptions, and working conditions.

Until this year, non-teaching professionals were required to obtain a special teacher certification from the province in order to work in the school system. They have also been members of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union.

“The unknowns created by the government with recent changes to both certification and working conditions for speech language pathologists, school psychologists, and school based social workers will make it even more challenging to recruit for new positions, fill open positions, and retain professionals currently in these positions,” the letter reads.

The province says it has changed the policy based on recommendations from the Commission on Inclusive Education, which suggested schools become “wrap-around facilities.” Non-teaching professionals will not be granted teacher certificates this year.

WATCH: N.S. to hire nearly 200 professional to assist with inclusion

Last week, the deputy minister of education told Global News that union affiliation for the new hires “is probably a decision down the road,” after the Department of Education changed its policy on teacher certification.

Cathy Montreuil also told Global News that the change would only impact six new hires across the province. But there are currently 10 non-unionized postings for school psychologists in the Halifax Regional Centre for Education alone. Those who already hold a teaching certificate will continue to be NSTU members, according to the province, but new hires are outside the union.

“We need to have speech language pathologists and psychologists available year-round, in order to do that, this is the way we need to move forward,” Education Minister Zach Churchill said in an interview June 13.

READ MORE: Nova Scotia to hire over 190 professionals to help with classroom inclusion

The open letter to Minister Churchill calls for consultation with non-teaching professionals “so that we may discuss potential solutions to the problems of long wait lists and the need for wrap-around services as highlighted by both the Glaze and Inclusion reports.”

The Department of Education declined to provide an interview on the subject on Friday. The Halifax Regional Centre for Education has not responded to a request for comment.

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