Still no deal
Teachers vote to reject a third tentative agreement
The labour war still rages. Nova Scotia’s 9,300 public school teachers have voted to reject a third tentative agreement reached between the Nova Scotia Teachers Union and the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development since the opening of negotiations on Sept. 29, 2015.
In a provincewide electronic vote held Thursday, union members voted 78.5 per cent against the tentative deal. Substitute teachers working today were eligible to vote, bringing the total vote count over 100 per cent.
“Public school teachers have spoken once again in rejecting this tentative agreement, said NSTU president Liette Doucet in a news release. “It’s clear our members are frustrated, they deserve better and what government offered in this agreement doesn’t go far enough in addressing the real classroom concerns that affect teachers and students.” Education Minister Karen Casey said the outcome of the vote was disappointing for students, parents and the government, but she did not indicate how the government would respond.
“This was the third tentative agreement reached with the union leadership and it was reached after an intense and productive period of bargaining,’’ she said in a statement.
“This agreement provided a fair wage offer and showed we were willing to make further investments in classrooms.’’
Casey said the agreement contained $20 million to improve classroom conditions — a key issue in the dispute.
As far as next steps, Doucet says: “We do know that our work-to-rule job action will continue. What we don’t know is what government’s next move will be. We don’t know if they will agree to go back to the negotiating table, if they will legislate a contract, change the terms and conditions of employment or lock us out.”
The provincial executive will be meeting to discuss any other options available.
The current teachers’ contract expired in July, 2015. NSTU members have been in a legal strike position since Dec. 5. Union members had already twice rejected contract agreements recommended by the union executive and voted overwhelmingly in favour of a strike.
The union began a provincewide work-to-rule campaign in early December, disrupting many facets of school life, such as shows, trips, school athletics and other extra-curricular activities.
The NSTU had backed off on its work-to-rule last month following a tentative deal between the government and the union, but quickly reinstated it over Premier Stephen McNeil’s interpretation of a proposed two days off for the teachers that had been part of that tentative agreement.
NDP Leader Gary Burrill said the collapse of the latest tentative deal demonstrates that McNeil isn’t listening to the teachers.
“This Liberal government is willing to sacrifice the education of a generation and burn out the most qualified group of teachers in the history of the province to protect their balanced budget,’’ he said in a statement.