The union representing teachers in the province said it could take years to rebuild trust with the provincial government, in the wake of the suspensions handed to two teachers who spoke at a forum on stress.

The Eastern School District suspended each teacher for one week without pay, following comments that teachers Jim Dinn and Mario Simon made at a forum in November on workloads facing high school teachers.

The Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers' Association is fighting that decision through grievance procedures.

The Eastern School District is now trying to convince teachers that they should not be afraid to take part in upcoming consultations on the future of schools in the region.

The board is holding consultations to respond to a consultant's report that recommended dozens of changes and closures as the district grapples with declining enrolments.

Chief executive officer Darin King could not be reached for an interview Wednesday, but in a letter sent to school administrators Tuesday, he acknowledged the suspensions may be making others to reluctant to participate.

King wrote that teachers should not be afraid to provide "professional, informed and constructive advice."

NLTA president Kevin Foley said his members are afraid to say anything for risk of being disciplined.

"This has done incredible damage to the morale of teachers throughout the province, not just in the Eastern School District," Foley said.

"I don't know what could save it. No, teachers do not feel comfortable outlining the difficulties in their work situation right now."

Foley said teachers who have already submitted their comments to the board are worried they could be used against them.