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.
Union head in Cape Breton as part of provincewide tour
Nova Scotia Teachers Union president Liette Doucet, front, and her second vice president Cheri Abriel attended a meeting Friday in Sydney with teachers to review a proposed contact deal with the province. The deal is on shaky ground as teachers resume a work-to-rule campaign Monday.
©CAPE BRETON POST PHOTO
SYDNEY, N.S. — A tentative contract deal between the Nova Scotia government and its 9,300 teachers was on the brink of collapse Friday after the teachers union said it was resuming its work-to-rule campaign beginning Monday.
At this point, we don’t know if we have a tentative contract. Liette Doucet
Doucet was in Cape Breton as part of her provincewide tour to explain the proposed deal that is to be voted on Feb. 8. The union has already rejected two previous offers.
What has angered Doucet and her provincial union executive is a comment Premier Stephen McNeil made after a cabinet meeting Thursday in Halifax.
According to the union, the premier indicated teachers would not have any discretion when it comes to using two extra days of professional development that was agreed to as part of the contract talks.
Doucet said such a comment does not reflect what was negotiated between the two sides in reaching a tentative deal earlier this month.
It is the union’s position the two days would self-directed professional development days.
“He is reneging on the contract,” said Doucet, adding his comment is not indicative of what was agreed.
“This is what has upset me and every other teacher in the province,” said Doucet, who prior to taking on the president’s job was a senior elementary school teacher in Halifax for 26 years.
Doucet also said further job action is possible and that all options will be discussed during a provincial executive meeting that could be convened as early as the weekend.
Teachers have already voted overwhelmingly in support of strike action and Doucet said that vote still stands.
“I don’t know what his intentions were,” said Doucet, in reference to the premier, adding she or her union no longer have trust in the provincial government, accusing it of bargaining in bad faith.
“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,” said Doucet, in a news release issued late Friday afternoon.
“Teachers don’t have faith in the premier. They don’t trust him to do what’s in the best interest of our education system. ”
Meanwhile, Doucet herself is facing angry opposition from teachers who do not appear to be in support of the tentative deal.
“I know teachers are not happy. They’re frustrated and they don’t trust the government,” she said, prior to attending a meeting with rank and file union members on Friday at Sydney Academy.
In emerging from the meeting, Doucet said it was frank discussion and there plenty of concerns to share with the provincial negotiating team. She declined to offer specifics, noting the meeting was a closed-door session.
One issue that wasn’t discussed, she said, was a petition calling for her and the provincial negotiating team to resign.
Doucet said the issue was never raised nor even mentioned.
The petition surfaced on a social media site Thursday and was to be presented during the Sydney Academy meeting.
Under work-to-rule, teachers will only arrive to school 20 minutes before classes begin and leave 20 minutes after classes end for the day.
As a result, all extra-curricular school activities, sports, school committees, trips and the like, are cancelled.
The measure was used during December and January and here is Cape Breton resulted in the cancellation of the Coal Bowl basketball tournament in New Waterford and the Red Cup Showcase hockey tourney in Coxheath.
• Four-year deal valued at $60 million
• Proposed wage freeze would only be for 20 months as opposed to 24 months.
• Two days of paid leave per year along with additional time for marking and class preparation.
• A special committee to address working conditions and other classroom concerns comprising representatives from the union and Department of Education. An arbitrator would be called in if the committee is unable to agree on items.
• The appointment of a commission to review support resources allotted for special needs students. Commission members would be from the union, government and one independent member.