Arbitrator orders province to take ‘immediate action’ on teaching specialist ruling: NSTU

Nova Scotia Teachers Union building. File/ Global News

An arbitrator has ordered Nova Scotia’s education department to take “immediate action” on his ruling that found teaching specialists must be included in the Nova Scotia Teachers Union (NSTU).

According to an NSTU memo obtained by Global News, an emergency meeting was held Tuesday between the NSTU, education department and arbitrator Eric Slone.

The union says the meeting was held because the provincial government “completely ignored” Slone’s Nov. 25 ruling that found social workers, school psychologists, and speech language pathologists must be included in the NSTU.

READ MORE: Nova Scotia school psychologists, speech pathologists once again members of NSTU

NSTU president Paul Wozney claims that despite the ruling, some 12-month employees have been told they will continue under the same working conditions.

The union also says specialists were “being refused application materials when they contacted the Office of Teacher Certification to apply for special certificates.”

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During Tuesday’s meeting, the union says it asked for the education department to “immediately resume issuing special certificates to specialists” and to have collective agreement benefits from both the Provincial and applicable Regional Collective Agreement be “immediately granted to specialists.”

Click to play video: 'NSTU calls on education department to answer programming concerns'
NSTU calls on education department to answer programming concerns

The union says the department objected to these requests, as it intends to appeal Slone’s decision through a judicial review.

“(The department) intends to apply to the court for a ‘stay’ (a delay of the implementation of the award) for the time period until the judicial review is decided,” the union memo reads.

Slone issues supplementary award

According to the memo, Slone responded to the education department by recognizing that a stay is not yet in place and it would be “inappropriate to act as if the Employer’s mere announcement that it plans to seek a stay sometime in the near future is sufficient to create a de facto stay.”

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As a result, Slone ordered Minister Zach Churchill and the department to reinstate the information about special certificates to immediately process any applications for a special certificate, and educate 12-month employees that they must apply for a special certificate.

Slone also ordered specialists to be covered by the day-to-day benefits in the collective agreements, and ordered government to advise non-union specialists that their sick leave entitlement will also be adjusted to conform to the provisions in the said collective agreements.

Arbitrator Slone retained jurisdiction to give further direction to the parties in the event further issues arise.

READ MORE: Nova Scotia school psychologists, speech pathologists once again members of NSTU

The NSTU states it is pleased with the outcomes of the award and the clarifications made.

“The NSTU will continue to seek the cooperation of the (education department) in the implementation of the awards,” the memo states.

“However, in order to confirm the implementation of the Award the NSTU is also proceeding to register the Award as a Court Order with the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia.”

That hearing is scheduled to take place on Jan. 6.

In a statement to Global News, the province said it has been reviewing the award, considering its impacts and looking at its options.

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“We believe this arbitration award is not in the best interests of students and their families and we have decided to appeal it,” the statement reads.

“We have worked with the union to resolve pressing issues arising from the Nov. 25 award and we will continue to discuss this latest award with them over the next several days.”

Click to play video: 'McNeil responds to arbitrator ruling on special teaching certificates'
McNeil responds to arbitrator ruling on special teaching certificates

Government has until Jan. 2 to appeal the award.

— With files from Sarah Ritchie. 

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