January 11, 2019 4:42 pm
Updated: January 11, 2019 6:43 pm

Province and Nova Scotia Teachers Union at odds ahead of negotiations

WATCH: Nearly a year after sweeping changes to the education system were brought in Nova Scotia’s Teachers Union denies that the province has the support of those on the frontlines. Jeremy Keefe reports.

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Last year saw massive changes to Nova Scotia’s education system, many of which were strongly opposed to by the union representing the province’s teachers.

Fast forward just a few months and now Premier Stephen McNeil, who’s had a tumultuous relationship with the Nova Scotia Teachers Union (NSTU) during his tenure, has asserted that support for their reform has been expressed by front-line workers in the recent past.

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“As I travel this province, teachers come up to me often and talk to me,” McNeil said Thursday, when speaking to reporters. “People will talk to me about some of the challenges they’re faced with but also some of the opportunities they see.”

But his comments drew the ire of the NSTU, which deny the claims.

Newly-minted president Paul Wozney says the NSTU and Nova Scotia teachers are one and the same and insinuating they’re in favour of what his government has chosen to do is false.

“He’s making definitive statements about what teachers think, he’s suggesting that teachers across Nova Scotia are behind him and the changes he’s made and that’s what teachers take exception to,” said Wozney.

“The premier’s remarks were not accurate.”

Following the Glaze Report, Nova Scotia’s school boards were dissolved in favour of Regional Centres for Education.

The NSTU was against the move when it was brought in and they maintain that position months later.

Wozney says the sweeping changes that happened in spite of their wishes, not because of them, have served to strain the relationship teachers have with parents and the public.

“The premier and the minister and the party don’t wear that, teachers do,” Wozney said of the changes.

READ MORE: NSTU says poll shows majority of Nova Scotians critical of province’s handling of public education

“Teachers took it upon themselves to say, ‘No we don’t support Bill 72 and no we don’t see you and we certainly don’t see your party being active in communicating with us,'” Wozney said.

“The changes that have happened are happening in isolation, they are the brainchild of a political machine, they’re not based on consultation.”

Education and Early Childhood Development Minister Zach Churchill said with approximately 9,000 teachers in the province, opinions are bound to vary.

He points to the hiring of around 200 educational support staff over the past few months as one area where they are hearing positive things from teaching staff, along with increased efforts for inclusive education.

“Any information I would have would be anecdotal, based on conversations I have with folks either online or in person,” said Churchill. “I hear a lot of appreciation and support for the changes around inclusion, the new supports that are in place.”

The current NSTU contract is set to expire at the end of the school year but contract talks could begin as early as March.

“If the government wants a different outcome than last time, we need to see them respecting the process of free and fair collective bargaining,” said Wozney.

“If we see them do that, positive things can happen.”

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