Teachers wary heading into contract talks

Teachers in the province are concerned about contract negotiations after 160 teaching positions were cut in the recent provincial budget.
Jim Dinn, the head of NLTA's negotiation team, says talks with the provincial government have been difficult. (CBC)

Teachers in the province are concerned about the direction of contract negotiations after 160 teaching positions were cut in the provincial budget.

Jim Dinn, the incoming president of the Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers' Association, said talks have been stalled for months.

"It's been a pretty interesting process when we sit down and we're ready, and we're not getting any, I guess, co-operation from the other side," Dinn said.

In last week's budget, it was announced that the province's four English school boards would become one, leaving only two school boards province-wide — one English and one French.

"It is, I think, an awful lot of angst, a lot of concern about how the amalgamation is going to roll out (and) what kind of contract we are going to get," he said.

Negotation difficulties

During a presentation by the NTLA on Wednesday, the association characterized government's opening proposals during negotiations as "poisonous."

Lily Cole is the outgoing president of the teachers' association.

"The challenges we have faced with this budget will continue, and there's probably many, many more issues that we don't even know about that will arise," Cole said. "You have some people really stressed to the max about the whole situation."

According to Cole, there is a risk that fewer teachers will result in fewer resources for students.

"We have a fabulous, qualified teaching profession in this province — we are so lucky," she said. "We just need to give them the support so we don't burn them out. They're giving 150 per cent."

Dinn, who also heads the NLTA's negotiation team, said he believes the budget cuts will have a negative impact on teachers in the province, but adds the association is ready for talks.

"We stand ready — we've been ready since the beginning of this school year," Dinn said. "[I hope] they actually come back, and come back with a reasonable attitude."

The education minister and the premier turned down invitations to speak to teachers this week. Instead, the minister released a statement saying he was disappointed by Cole's comments.