NSTU mov­ing for­ward, but anger re­mains over im­posed con­tract

The Amherst News - - OP ED - BY AN­DREW WAGSTAFF AMHERST NEWS an­drew.wagsta @amher­st­news.ca Twit­ter: @ADNan­drew

Nova Sco­tia’s teach­ers con­tinue to strug­gle with class­room con­di­tions, eight months af­ter the pro­vin­cial govern­ment forced them into a new con­tract

That was the mes­sage from Nova Sco­tia Teach­ers Union pres­i­dent Li­ette Doucet, who vis­ited the Amherst area Oct. 17 to tour six lo­cal schools, at the in­vi­ta­tion of Cum­ber­land Lo­cal pres­i­dent Chris Weeks.

“Teach­ers are at the point now where they may have been in March-April-May, in terms of be­ing ex­hausted and stressed,” said Doucet, af­ter meet­ing with lo­cal teach­ers and hear­ing their con­cerns at each school. “ ey are up to their lim­its, and just try­ing to make it through each day.”

The visit was Doucet’s first school vis­its of the year, and some­thing she hopes to do more, de­scrib­ing it as an “eye-open­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.”

“What I’m still hear­ing this year is that many teach­ers feel they’re fail­ing their stu­dents,” she said. “ ey’re do­ing the best they can and do­ing a fan­tas­tic job, but they are not get­ting the re­sources they need to en­sure all stu­dents are suc­cess­ful.”

For ex­am­ple, she had praise for hav­ing class size caps up to Grade 12, but said it does not ad­dress the is­sue of class com­po­si­tion. A cap of 25 stu­dents might work well in one class­room, but an­other class of 25 might be more like a class of 55 due to the needs of that group.

“I’m still hear­ing that, and that’s not go­ing to change un­til they look at needs and look at the com­bi­na­tion of num­bers along with needs,” said Doucet.

It was Fe­bru­ary of this year that the gov­ern­ing Lib­er­als forced the prov­ince’s 9,300 pub­lic school teach­ers into its new con­tract, af­ter a one-day strike and a workto-rule job ac­tion that had been in place since De­cem­ber.

e bit­ter labour dis­pute was a key is­sue in the spring elec­tion campaign, which saw the Lib­er­als sur­vive, bruised and bat­tered, with the slimmest of ma­jori­ties.

Al­though mem­bers of the new govern­ment said they re­ceived the mes­sage from Nova Sco­tians on May 30, Doucet said noth­ing has im­proved since the elec­tion, and teach­ers are still feel­ing be­trayed.

“We’re not go­ing to go back­wards, we want to move for­ward, but teach­ers are still an­gry,” she said. “ ey’re bit­ter about how it all went, and we ended up with an im­posed con­tract in­stead of a govern­ment who lis­tened to what we were say­ing.”

She said at the time that she was dis­ap­pointed with the elec­tion re­sult, but will­ing to work with what­ever govern­ment was in place.

She still main­tains that com­mit­ment, and said she is hop­ing to have bet­ter progress with new education min­is­ter Zach Churchill.

“I just have to keep talk­ing, bring­ing is­sues for­ward and let­ting them know,” said Doucet. “I’m not giv­ing up, and I’m go­ing to do ev­ery­thing I can to make some­body lis­ten. ey can hear us, but they’re not lis­ten­ing to us.”

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