IM­POS­ING A CON­TRACT

Cape Breton Post - - FRONT PAGE - THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Prov­ince to pass leg­is­la­tion to re­solve teach­ers dis­pute.

Nova Sco­tia’s Lib­eral gov­ern­ment tabled leg­is­la­tion Tues­day that would im­pose a new fouryear con­tract for the prov­ince’s 9,300 teach­ers and re­sult in an end to their union’s le­gal strike po­si­tion.

The con­tract was in­cluded as part of the Teach­ers Pro­fes­sional Agree­ment and Class­room Im­prove­ment Act, which once passed, would end the 16month long con­tract dis­pute.

The bill was in­tro­duced as a large group of teach­ers protested the move in the chilly night air out­side the leg­is­la­ture.

Pre­mier Stephen McNeil told re­porters it was sim­ply time for the gov­ern­ment to act af­ter the union mem­ber­ship re­jected three ten­ta­tive agree­ments rec­om­mended by the union’s ex­ec­u­tive.

“I was hop­ing that the most re­cent one (con­tract) would have been ac­cepted,’’ said McNeil. “Work-to-rule is hav­ing an im­pact on schools across this prov­ince and this is to try to put some nor­malcy back in the class­rooms.’’

The new con­tract con­tains a three per cent salary in­crease and in­cor­po­rates much of the el­e­ments con­tained in the first two ten­ta­tive agree­ments re­jected by mem­bers of the Nova Sco­tia Teach­ers Union. A third ten­ta­tive deal was re­jected last week by a vote of 78.5 per cent, prompt­ing the gov­ern­ment to push ahead with a leg­is­lated set­tle­ment.

The salary pack­age in­cludes zero per cent for the first two years, fol­lowed by in­creases of one per cent in the third year and 1.5 per cent in the fourth, with a 0.5 per cent in­crease on the last day of the agree­ment.

McNeil said it was the same wage pattern teacher’s re­jected in the first deal, although by a smaller mar­gin than in sub­se­quent votes, and that’s why it was adopted by the gov­ern­ment. He said the gov­ern­ment wasn’t at­tempt­ing to pu­n­ish teach­ers for vot­ing no to the lat­est deal.

“`Not at all. We had to have a con­tract and the one that the ma­jor­ity of them voted for was the first one, it’s as sim­ple as it gets,’’ McNeil said.

The gov­ern­ment said the prov­ince would save $18 mil­lion in con­tract costs over the most re­cently re­jected deal.

Out­side the leg­is­la­ture, teach­ers were quick to ex­press their dis­ap­point­ment with an im­posed set­tle­ment they say tram­ples their right to col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing and doesn’t ad­dress con­di­tions in the class­room.

“I leave here tonight with noth­ing that is go­ing to help me in the class­room,’’ said Terry Wil­liams, a Grade 6 teacher at a school in sub­ur­ban Hal­i­fax.

Wil­liams, who also coaches soft­ball and soc­cer, said he would now have to con­sider whether it was worth his time to con­tinue vol­un­teer­ing out­side of class­room du­ties.

“As much as I love it, as much as I want to do it for the kids, do I want to go above and be­yond af­ter this process of just feel­ing ne­glected and not ap­pre­ci­ated,’’ he said.

The bill es­tab­lishes a coun­cil to im­prove class­room con­di­tions and a com­mit­ment of $20 mil­lion over two years to ad­dress that is­sue.

There will also be a three-per­son com­mis­sion on in­clu­sive ed­u­ca­tion that will be launched 30 days af­ter the bill is passed. The com­mis­sion is ex­pected to sub­mit an in­terim re­port by June 30, which will leave enough time for rec­om­men­da­tions to be im­ple­mented for the up­com­ing school year.

Union pres­i­dent Li­ette Doucet said her mem­ber­ship would be an­gered by the im­po­si­tion of a deal that ac­tu­ally loses the mi­nor gains con­tained in the most re­cently re­jected deal.

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