Lib­eral labour pains

More than 300 teach­ers and their sup­port­ers rally in Syd­ney to protest Bill 75

Cape Breton Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY CAPE BRETON POST STAFF

The fo­cus in the on­go­ing dis­pute be­tween Nova Sco­tia and its teach­ers shifted from class­room con­di­tions to labour rights Wed­nes­day.

More than 300 teach­ers and their sup­port­ers gath­ered in front of the Pro­vin­cial Build­ing for a lit­tle over an hour to protest leg­is­la­tion that would im­pose a four-year con­tract on Nova Sco­tia Teach­ers Union mem­bers.

NSTU Cape Breton Dis­trict lo­cal pres­i­dent Sally Cap­stick said the Teach­ers Pro­fes­sional Agree­ment and Class­room Im­prove­ment Act, or Bill 75 — which Premier Stephen McNeil’s Lib­er­als are push­ing through leg­is­la­ture in an emer­gency sit­ting — is an at­tack on unions.

“I thought we lived in a democ­racy,” Cap­stick said, as peo­ple on both sides of Prince Street chanted “Kill Bill 75.”

“I don’t think that’s part of any democ­racy, of any free­dom of any coun­try. I’m a proud Cana­dian — first­gen­er­a­tion im­mi­grant. That’s not the kind of coun­try, or the kind of fu­ture, that I want to see my kids grow up in.”

Mem­bers of var­i­ous unions were at the rally to show their sup­port for the prov­ince’s 9,300 teach­ers, who have been wag­ing a work-to-rule cam­paign since Dec. 5.

As Bill 75 makes its way into law, Nova Sco­tia teach­ers are pre­par­ing to stage a one-day, provincewide strike Fri­day — the first in the 122-year his­tory of the NSTU.

Carmie Erick­son, pres­i­dent of the Cape Breton Dis­trict Labour Coun­cil, said ev­ery­one should be con­cerned by McNeil’s at­tempt to leg­is­late an end to the 16-month con­tract dis­pute, call­ing it “un­ac­cept­able.”

“They’re tak­ing away col­lec­tive bar­gain­ing — things that we have fought for for 100 years they want to squash,” she said. “Any­thing that we lose, ev­ery­body is go­ing to lose. Any­thing unions win is for the good of ev­ery­body. You en­joy your week­ends? Thank a union. You en­joy min­i­mum wage and bet­ter? Thank a union. Any­thing we get is passed on to ev­ery work­ing per­son in this coun­try, and any­thing we lose is go­ing to cost ev­ery work­ing per­son in this coun­try.”

Paul Moore, a mem­ber of the Nova Sco­tia Gov­ern­ment and Gen­eral Em­ploy­ees Union, said Bill 75 would strip away the rights of work­ers.

“It’s the teach­ers to­day and it’s go­ing to be the NSGEU and the civil ser­vants in a cou­ple of week’s time,” he said as he held an NSGEU flag.

Brook­land Ele­men­tary stu­dent Lily Bot­tom­ley, was chant­ing “leg­is­late, don’t dic­tate” while hold­ing a sign that read “Don’t Ex­ter­mi­nate My Ed­u­ca­tion!”

As pass­ing mo­torists honked their horns in en­cour­age­ment, the nine-yearold said she wanted show her sup­port for her Grade 4 teacher, “Mr. Oliver.”

“I’m here to sup­port teach­ers,” she said. “I have a teacher and be­cause of Stephen McNeil we couldn’t have bas­ket­ball this year at school.”

Cap­stick said while leg­is­lat­ing against strike ac­tion is not uncommon — “I don’t think there’s a pub­lic sec­tor that hasn’t had some kind of strike ac­tion leg­is­lated against it” — she was par­tic­u­larly both­ered that McNeil re­called leg­is­la­ture be­cause teach­ers re­jected a third ten­ta­tive deal last week.

“To call this an emer­gency, to waste the money that he’s wast­ing on the sit­ting of the leg­is­la­ture, is un­be­liev­able. Kids were still in school, kids were still learn­ing, things were go­ing on. We def­i­nitely turned down the con­tract but that’s cer­tainly no rea­son to leg­is­late a con­tract.”

She wasn’t sur­prised by the strong turnout at Wed­nes­day’s rally, “es­pe­cially in Cape Breton where we have a strong labour back­ground.”

“We still cel­e­brate Davis Day and we cel­e­brate the fact that these peo­ple went out and stood up for some­thing that they be­lieved in — the right as a group to ne­go­ti­ate a con­tract — and now that’s be­ing taken away,” she said.

Mean­while, the NTEU will hold a one-day, provincewide strike on Fri­day to protest leg­is­la­tion that would im­pose a four-year con­tract.

Mem­bers of the leg­is­la­ture have been speak­ing all night in an ef­fort to slow down the law that would im­pose the con­tract.

Once passed, the Teach­ers Pro­fes­sional Agree­ment and Class­room Im­prove­ment Act would end a 16-month-long con­tract dis­pute.

Premier McNeil has said it’s time to act af­ter the union mem­ber­ship re­jected three ten­ta­tive agree­ments rec­om­mended by the union’s ex­ec­u­tive.

Union pres­i­dent Li­ette Doucet says in a news re­lease that teach­ers will spend Fri­day protest­ing what she calls McNeil’s “bully tac­tics.’’

CAPE BRETON POST PHOTO

Tessa Stepa­niak, 5, of Gar­diner Mines, a stu­dent at Tomp­kins Ele­men­tary, shows her sup­port for teach­ers, in­clud­ing her mom Rhonda Beaton, left, dur­ing a rally in front of the Pro­vin­cial Build­ing on Prince Street in Syd­ney on Wed­nes­day. More than 300 mem­bers of the Nova Sco­tia Teach­ers Union and their sup­port­ers lined both sides of the street to protest leg­is­la­tion that would im­pose a con­tract on the prov­ince’s 9,300 teach­ers.

CAPE BRETON POST PHOTO

Peo­ple stand in front of the Pro­vin­cial Build­ing on Prince Street in Syd­ney on Wed­nes­day to protest Bill 75, leg­is­la­tion that would an im­pose a con­tract on the prov­ince’s 9,300 teach­ers.

Erick­son

Bot­tom­ley

Moore

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