Pre­mier says he’ll ‘bring an end’ to stand­off

NSTU says mem­bers have right to weigh in on bill to end con­tract dis­pute

Cape Breton Post - - FRONT PAGE -

The Nova Sco­tia Teach­ers Union says its 9,300 mem­bers should have their say when the leg­is­la­ture re­con­venes to push through a res­o­lu­tion to the on­go­ing con­tract dis­pute.

Pre­mier Stephen McNeil is re­call­ing the house for an emer­gency ses­sion tonight “to bring an end” to the stand­off be­tween the prov­ince and its pub­lic school teach­ers.

Union pres­i­dent Li­ette Doucet re­leased a state­ment Sun­day that said teach­ers “who are hav­ing their rights taken away” de­serve a chance to weigh in when a leg­is­la­ture com­mit­tee de­bates amend­ments to what­ever bill the gov­ern­ment brings for­ward.

Doucet said if the Lib­eral gov­ern­ment is go­ing to pass leg­is­la­tion “re­strict­ing” the col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing rights of teach­ers, then it should at least have the “pa­tience and cour­tesy” to let them par­tic­i­pate in the process.

McNeil an­nounced Satur­day that he would re­call the leg­is­la­ture “to bring an end’’ to the long-sim­mer­ing stand­off be­tween the prov­ince and the Nova Sco­tia Teach­ers Union. Af­ter three failed ten­ta­tive agree­ments it is clear that ne­go­ti­a­tions have reached “an im­passe,’’ McNeil said in a state­ment Satur­day.

“I want to as­sure Nova Sco­tians that I have done con­sid­er­able soul search­ing,’’ he said. “We will ta­ble leg­is­la­tion that will bring an end to this dis­pute as soon as pos­si­ble.’’

The teach­ers most re­cent con­tract ex­pired in July 2015 and ne­go­ti­a­tions have dragged on for more than a year.

The teach­ers have been in a le­gal strike po­si­tion since Dec. 5, af­ter vot­ing 96 per cent in favour of strike ac­tion

It’s not the first time the gov­ern­ment has flexed its mus­cles to try to end the im­passe.

In early De­cem­ber, the gov­ern­ment closed schools on two days’ no­tice as it called an emer­gency ses­sion of the leg­is­la­ture to im­pose a con­tract as the teach­ers started a work to rule cam­paign. Op­po­si­tion politi­cians said at the time that the leg­isla­tive ma­noeu­vre was scut­tled by in­ter­nal dis­sent within the Lib­eral cau­cus. The gov­ern­ment re­versed it­self and said the union had ad­dressed its safety con­cerns amid a dis­agree­ment over ex­actly what had been dis­cussed.

Lead­ers of both provin­cial op­po­si­tion par­ties is­sued state­ments Satur­day con­demn­ing McNeil for his han­dling of the mat­ter.

“Re­call­ing the leg­is­la­ture is an ad­mis­sion of fail­ure by Pre­mier McNeil,’’ Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive Jamie Bail­lie said. “Stu­dents, parents and teach­ers are fed up with his wil­ful blind­ness to the needs of mod­ern class­rooms. They no longer trust Stephen McNeil to man­age our chil­dren’s fu­tures.’’

All par­ties in­volved in the union-gov­ern­ment melee have said they’re act­ing in the best in­ter­est of stu­dents. The pre­mier said that the union’s job ac­tion has taken a toll on chil­dren and their fam­i­lies, while Doucet said the prov­ince is ig­nor­ing teach­ers’ con­cerns about class­rooms con­di­tions.

The union’s work-to-rule edict stip­u­lates teach­ers should only re­port for work 20 min­utes be­fore class starts and leave 20 min­utes af­ter the school day ends.

The job ac­tion has been con­tro­ver­sial for many parents and stu­dents, given the fact that field trips, Christ­mas con­certs and sport­ing events had to be can­celled.

When the lat­est ten­ta­tive con­tract was reached Jan. 20, the teach­ers sus­pended the work-to-rule cam­paign. Doucet said Satur­day it is set to re­sume to­day, but it re­mains un­clear what form it will take.

Doucet said Fri­day the union would have to re­view what­ever leg­is­la­tion the gov­ern­ment brings for­ward be­fore de­cid­ing whether to turn to the courts.

McNeil

Doucet

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