NSTU needs to adopt new ap­proach

Cape Breton Post - - EDITORIAL -

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

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