NSCC faculty, professional support staff voting on self representation

Members of the Nova Scotia Community College’s faculty and professional support workers are voting on whether to end their relationship with the Nova Scotia Teachers Union.

Ballot question asks if members want their own union or the NSTU as bargaining agent

The vote on whom NSCC faculty and professional support workers want as their bargaining agent begins Friday. (Robert Short/CBC)

Members of the Nova Scotia Community College's faculty and professional support workers are voting on whether to end their relationship with the Nova Scotia Teachers Union.

Last week, the Nova Scotia Community College Academic Union served notice to the NSTU, its bargaining representative, and the NSCC, its employer, of the union's application to the Nova Scotia Labour Board to become the certified bargaining agent for both college faculty and professional support workers.

Ferne MacLennan, a member of the business faculty at the NSCC Kingstec campus and a member of the NSTU's provincial executive, said the decision to call the vote is the result of discussions over the last few years about the relationship with the NSTU not necessarily being the most natural fit.

"We answer to a different [cabinet] minister, our funding model is different [and] our contract is with the board of governors of the community college," she said.

It's an 'evolution'

The vote is happening now, said MacLennan, because this is the limited window within the workers' contract that they have to consider the move. MacLennan said it's not an anti-NSTU vote, but rather one for self representation.

"It is just an evolution," she said.

"To the best of our knowledge, we're the only college group that's represented by a P-12 union in the whole country."

The news comes a week after members of both groups agreed to six-year deals that will expire in 2020.

Several weeks to get vote results

The vote on whether to self represent will be on Friday at NSCC campuses in Dartmouth and Halifax, and on Monday or Tuesday for campuses in the rest of the province. While they'll be voting at the same time, faculty and professional support workers are voting separately on the ballot question.

The votes will then be verified, scrutinized and counted before the results are released, a process that could take several weeks. A vote of 50 per cent plus one of cast ballots is required to make the change.

There are about 850 people eligible to vote within the two bargaining units.

NSTU urges 'no' vote

In a news release, NSTU president Liette Doucet said she hopes all members vote, and urged them to retain their ties with the NSTU.

"I wholeheartedly support the right of educators to exercise their right to freedom of association, but think what's best for education across Nova Scotia is for the NSTU to remain as one," Doucet said in the release.

"The NSTU values its community college members and the contribution they have made to the fabric of our organization. I hope they will vote NO to decertification and take part in a consultation to improve our organization while avoiding the potential unintended consequences that can arise from leaving a union and starting a new association."

Potential financial hit for NSTU

The loss of those members would be a blow to the NSTU, which would lose not only the members from their ranks but also the dues they pay. It would be the second loss of members this year.

The Liberal government passed legislation this spring that, among other things, removed principals, vice-principals and other senior supervisors from the NSTU. In that case, the loss of about 1,000 members was cushioned by the fact that although they become their own administrators association starting in August, they will continue to pay dues to the NSTU.

About the Author

Michael Gorman

Reporter

Michael Gorman is a reporter in Nova Scotia who covers Province House, rural communities, and everything in between. Contact him with story ideas at michael.gorman@cbc.ca