NSTU needs to adopt new approach
In another February close to 40 years ago, a coal miner working on the surface at Glace Bay`s Number 26 Colliery noticed dust and small pieces of debris swirling in a gust of air around his feet.
He glanced at the watch he carried. The time was shortly after 4 a.m. and at that very instant 10 men were dying in an explosion and fire at a coal face at the bottom of the pit. Others were horribly burned. An eyewitness said one man’s flesh was hanging on his bones, others were gassed and eventually two more would die.
Another man died in a fire there several years later and following that the mine closed for good.
Thankfully, that was the last in a long line of mining disasters that claimed the lives of hundreds of Cape Breton coal miners, and maimed and disfigured many more.
While union solidarity and supporting the rights of workers is commendable,
equating, as guest columnist Stephen J. W. Drake did (“History 101: Standing up to power,” Cape Breton Post, Feb. 18), in any way the brutality and hardship of the coal miners life and struggle, especially in the early years, with the
current dispute between the provincial government and the Nova Scotia Teachers’ Union (NSTU) is ridiculous.
However, there is little question that there are many problems in the school system today.
Teachers tell me that well meaning policies of inclusion as well as a lack of discipline, attendance and the abandonment of streaming in the classroom is not working, as is more and more paperwork at the expense of time actually teaching.
Also, the increase of programs like French immersion and classes for
so-called gifted students only serves to increase the ratio of special needs or discipline problems in regular classes.
An online history of the NSTU goes back to 1895. A quick search mentions the
word strike six times. Nowhere though does it ever say they actually went on
strike. And why would they? In recent times at least provincial governments seem to have been happy to go along with teachers demands, the result of which made them among the highest paid in the country. Wage and benefits for teachers are far and away above those of the average Nova Scotian.
However, this time teachers are saying it`s not about money. If that is indeed
the case the NSTU should stop wasting time on negotiations that are soundly
rejected by its membership time and time again. All the while they are frustrating students and parents alike with a work-to-rule campaign, making them a stick to beat the government with.
Instead, the union has to sit down with its own members to gather their disparate views and then come up with a manifesto or clearly outlined vision of the school system of tomorrow, let the public have a look at it and get its support for it.
If the NSTU cannot do that the broad public support they have had so far will begin to fade away, if it has not already done so. Then no amount of spurious harkening back to the working class struggles of the last century for a living wage and safe working conditions will restore the respect and gratitude that teachers have in our society. Frank King Sydney River