Dis­pute nears conclusion

Cape Breton Post - - EDITORIAL -

And so, af­ter a dance that seems to have dragged on far too long, the labour dis­pute be­tween the Nova Sco­tia Teach­ers’ Union (NSTU) and the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment approaches its fi­nal days.

The Lib­eral gov­ern­ment has, af­ter three ten­ta­tive deals were re­buffed by the union mem­ber­ship, tabled leg­is­la­tion that will im­pose a new four-year con­tract on the prov­ince’s 9,300 teach­ers and re­sult in an end to their union’s le­gal strike po­si­tion.

In re­sponse, the NSTU will hold a one-day provincewide strike on Fri­day – its first ever – to protest the leg­is­la­tion.

And soon af­ter what one lo­cal union leader has la­beled a ‘gong show’ in this pa­per’s let­ters sec­tion will reach some sort of un­easy conclusion. Not that we never saw this com­ing. Long be­fore the NSTU ini­ti­ated its work-to-rule cam­paign in early De­cem­ber, Premier Stephen McNeil sent clear shots across its bow by stat­ing that teach­ers had one of the best pen­sion plans around, en­joyed gen­er­ous health ben­e­fits, ac­cu­mu­lated 195 sick days over their ca­reer and re­ceived a one-time pay­ment of a long ser­vice award upon re­tire­ment based on salary and the num­ber of years worked.

“What are they go­ing to bring to the tax­pay­ers of Nova Sco­tia to off­set the in­creases they want,” McNeil asked at the time.

The NSTU coun­tered, in part, by ex­press­ing their grow­ing frus­tra­tion with in­creas­ingly dif­fi­cult class­room teach­ing con­di­tions and stress­ing the in­cred­i­ble amount of vol­un­teer time that many teach­ers pro­vide to stu­dents.

But clearly the NSTU ex­ec­u­tive and its mem­ber­ship weren’t on the same page as far as the ne­go­ti­a­tions were con­cerned. If they were the ex­ec­u­tive would never have OK’d three agree­ments only to have each of them shot down by the mem­ber­ship.

NSTU pres­i­dent Li­ette Doucet says now that “the teach­ers are fed up. They are tired of this gov­ern­ment bul­ly­ing them.”

Again we ask why did she agree to three ten­ta­tive deals? Did the gov­ern­ment bully her and other ex­ec­u­tive mem­bers?

The gov­ern­ment’s bill con­tains a three per cent salary in­crease over four years, es­tab­lishes a coun­cil to im­prove class­room con­di­tions and a com­mit­ment of $20 mil­lion over two years to ad­dress that is­sue.

Re­ally, an­other study? Just make some de­ci­sions please, start­ing with, say, min­i­mum at­ten­dance stan­dards in or­der for stu­dents to pass and the elim­i­na­tion of au­to­matic grad­ing.

There will also be a three-per­son com­mis­sion on in­clu­sive ed­u­ca­tion that will be launched 30 days af­ter the bill is passed, with rec­om­men­da­tions to be im­ple­mented by the be­gin­ning of the next school year.

Caught in the mid­dle, mean­while, are stu­dents who have seen their ex­tracur­ric­u­lar school ac­tiv­i­ties dis­ap­pear for the past two-and-a-half months, not to men­tion not re­ceiv­ing any ex­tra help from their teach­ers.

Af­ter the con­tract is im­posed will some or all of their ac­tiv­i­ties re­turn over time? Or will an un­spo­ken work-to-rule equiv­a­lent be­come the new norm in our schools with un­happy teach­ers more re­luc­tant to of­fer up their free time for sports, mu­si­cals, plays, clubs and much more?

In the end we be­lieve both sides of this con­tract bat­tle could have done a far bet­ter job ar­tic­u­lat­ing their stances. Maybe next time.

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