County teachers join first-ever NSTU strike
Teachers from Baddeck Academy, Middle River Consolidated, Cabot Education Centre and elsewhere in the County joined thousands of teachers across the province in a one-day strike on Friday, February 17. Some picketed outside their schools while others traveled to Sydney and Halifax for larger events. The move came at the end of a months-long work-torule campaign that the Nova Scotia Teachers Union (NSTU) underwent since they entered a legal strike position on December 3, 2016.
Orlynn Somerville, VP Communications NSTU Northside-victoria Local and Grade 6/7 teacher at Baddeck Academy said the strike was a chance to inform the public of their mission while letting the government know how disappointed teachers have been with them.
“They’ve [Mcneil government] been bullies the whole time. There’s been no real negotiations. The students are the ones who lose out. We’re fighting for conditions in our schools. We’ve asked for changes in our classrooms. We’ve asked for more help with our children. We need social workers and psychologists. And they’re just not there for kids who need them.”
Teachers suspended workto-rule after reaching a tentative agreement in late January, only to reinstate the action days later when the NSTU and the Mcneil government argued over the purpose of two days listed in the contract. Somerville said regardless of their function, the days serve as an example of how the government wasn’t listening to teachers.
“I don’t know anyone who wanted them. Nobody. I think it was the government trying to smooth things over. We’re not buying it. Giving us time off is not what we’re asking for.”
If honking horns and thumbs up from drivers are any indication, then local support for teachers appears to be high. At one point, a pickup truck stopped in front of the picket line, rolled the window down and handed the frozen protesters a round of coffee and snacks.
Barbara Macdonald, Principal of Baddeck Academy, was somewhat resigned by back to work legislation that was looming the day of the strike. However, she feels the actions of teachers were necessary and impactful.
“Maybe this won’t get us what we want this year, but it will certainly let the government and all parties know that we’re serious about the conditions that have to be looked at, and rectified, in our education system.”
The Liberal government legislated teachers back to work on February 21.
Teachers (right to left) Orlynn Somerville, Dori Delaney, Nadine Palmizi and Meredith Mcgrath stand on the picket line outside Baddeck Academy on Friday, February 17 during a one-day strike protesting the Mcneil government's decision to legislate them back to work. Photo by Andrew Brooks / The Victoria Standard.