Shelburne County teachers add their voices to province-wide walkout
SHELBURNE COUNTY, N.S. – For the first time in its 122-year history, the NSTU held a teachers' strike on Friday, Feb. 17.
The Nova Scotia Teachers Union is resuming its work-to-rule job action on Monday, Jan. 30, according to a release issued Jan. 27.
The union said the decision was made following comments made by Stephen McNeil in the media Jan. 26.
According to the union, the premier indicated that teachers would not have discretion in using two days outlined in the tentative agreement. The union states that this contradicts documents the NSTU received during the bargaining process.
“Teachers go into their classrooms every day in their vocation to create good citizens to have integrity and trust,” Doucet said. “Teachers don’t have faith in the premier. They don’t trust him to do what’s in the best
Doucet said the premier has demonstrated he is incapable of bargaining in good faith.
“The premier is already backing away from commitments made in the new tentative agreement. If the premier is capable of misleading our members about two self-directed development days, then he is capable of misleading parents about the $20 million outlined in the deal to improve classroom conditions.”
Jan. 20, the NSTU had announced the work-to-rule strike action would be "suspended and phased out beginning Jan. 23."
The deal was the third time a tentative agreement has been reached between the province and the union on a new contract; two previous deals were voted down by members.
Doucet said that teachers want government to make needed investments to improve classroom conditions.
“That’s why they are taking this stand. During work-to-rule, teachers will continue to go to work, prepared to do what’s best for children,” she said.
Speaking at a press conference in Greenwich, McNeil said his government had "attempted to satisfy the teachers union demands while maintaining oversight on a challenging overall provincial budget."
Grade 12 student Rohit Kochhar of Sydney says he wonders if the union may have backed away from their work-to-rule campaign a little too early.
“I think personally that it was a really bad move on the union to actually come out of work-to-rule before the contract was accepted,” he said on Friday afternoon, adding that more drastic action may have to be taken if the matter is to be resolved soon.
“I think at this point a full strike would be easier to support because it would make more of an impact and hopefully resolve the issue faster,” said Kochhar, the head boy at Sydney Academy. “Work-to-rule took too long already. Most of the students, what we’re saying is that a full strike would resolve the issue.
“Teachers deserve their right to be heard and everything – the government should find a good contract for them – but as a student, I am just hoping this finishes as soon as possible.”
Lauren Galbraith, a 15-year-old student attending Avon View High School in Windsor, said she just wants the labour dispute to be over.
“From my point of view, I do agree with the teachers – they do deserve better – but it also is annoying that we have to do the work-to-rule process because it means there's a lot of things that aren't available to us anymore. It's pretty inconvenient,” said Galbraith.
For example, the table tennis club and extracurricular English activities Galbraith was involved in were cancelled. In addition, she also misses watching the Avon View Avalanche's hockey games, which were halted.
Galbraith said the students were just getting back into their regular school routine when news broke that the teachers would be resuming their work-to-rule labour action.
When asked what message she'd like conveyed to the teachers and province, she said: “Try to figure out something that works for everyone. Do it soon because everybody is kind of getting tired of this stand-still that we're in.”
During work-to-rule all school athletics and extracurricular activities are suspended. This has had a major impact on the high school hockey season, which had gotten underway in October and was suspended in early December by the Nova Scotia School Athletic Federation. The season is supposed to run until the end of March.
Hockey Nova Scotia stepped up, with help from local minor hockey associations, and formed a NS Midget X Winter League. If the NSTU vote on Feb. 8 was in favour of the tentative agreement, the teams were expected return to NSSAF high school hockey. If the agreement was not ratified, the teams would play out the remainder of their season as Midget X teams in the minor hockey system.
In Yarmouth County, the former Par-en-Bas Sharks high school hockey team – now playing as the Yarmouth County Midget X Oceanic – is supposed to host Division 3 NSSAF high school hockey provincials in March. The team doesn’t know if they will get the chance to host provincials.
“We’re disappointed more than anything because we want to host our provincials. But we also support the teachers too and whatever they have to do to make the working conditions better. We’re not going to pick a side. All we want to do is play hockey,” says head coach Julien Boudreau. “We are bummed because we have a lot of Grade 12s who would appreciate playing for provincials at home… it’s special to represent your school.”
School boards react
The Tri-County Regional School Board had been corresponding with parents through emails and through its website throughout the week after work to rule was lifted, to inform parents about the transition process. On Friday, TCRSB interim superintendent Jim Gunn said, "While under work to rule, procedures had been worked out between regional office and the schools and these were to remain in place until further notice while sufficient time was taken to plan and make the transition from WTR. We made real progress with principals last week in starting to make the transition. Whether under work-to-rule or in the transition period, delivering the educational programs and student services to our students will remain as our top priority.”
The Chignecto Central Regional School Board issued a release shortly after the NSTU announcement saying that the in-service day for Grade Primary to 8 students will go ahead as planned on Monday and exams will continue. The start of second semester will begin on Feb. 2.
CCRSB spokeswoman Debbie Buott-Matheson said it’s too early to determine the impact of a renewed work-to-rule campaign, adding the board is awaiting clarification from the teachers union.
“What it means longer term, we don’t know that yet,” she said. “Lots of schools had resumed school sport or after-school activities. Obviously with the work-to-rule coming back into place we are presuming it will be the same as before and all those things will stop again.”