Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia labour minister won't appoint mediator in teachers dispute

Nova Scotia's labour minister has turned down a request from the union representing Nova Scotia's public school teachers to appoint a mediator in an effort to stave off job action early next month.

'I don't believe an external mediator could assist in resolving this dispute,' Kelly Regan says in statement

Kelly Regan, the minister of labour and advanced education, said she is open to changing her mind about appointing a mediator in the dispute. (CBC)

Nova Scotia's labour minister has turned down a request from the union representing Nova Scotia's public school teachers to appoint a mediator in an effort to stave off job action early next month.

Kelly Regan told reporters at Province House she made the decision based on advice from labour experts in her office.

"I did not believe that an external mediator would be able to reach a successful conclusion," said Regan.

The probability of reaching a deal is a key factor in the decision but the minister wouldn't talk about what drew her to that conclusion.

"I can't, unfortunately. I wish I could. It would make my job here with you easier. But it's a confidential process so I can't actually get into that."

'What is wrong with trying mediation?'

The Nova Scotia Teachers Union requested the minister appoint an outside mediator last Thursday.

The union's request came shortly after Premier Stephen McNeil announced the launch of an advertising campaign to explain the government's position in the impasse. The campaign will also include a series of Liberal Party-funded ads. 

Opposition leaders were quick to condemn Regan's decision. 

"Look, what is wrong with trying mediation?" said PC Leader Jamie Baillie. "What's the downside of trying? How much of a chance does there have to be? To me if there's any chance, it's worth taking."

'A mistake'

He called the decision political.

"The fact she said no when there's even a chance that it might avert a strike to me shows she has just thrown independence out the window and is doing Premier McNeil's bidding."

NDP Leader Gary Burrill blamed this latest setback on the fact the government is refusing to move off its wage offer.

"They have drawn a line in the sand," he said. "They have utterly identified themselves with the position that the government needs to have a two-year wage freeze in the public sector.

"It is, from the outset, a mistake."

Burrill has suggested the governing Liberals could go further into deficit, if need be, to sweeten the offer to teachers and resolve the dispute before teachers walk off the job. 

Off the job?

The earliest teachers could strike is Dec. 3.

Union members voted 96 per cent in favour of strike action in late October after voting earlier that month to reject the province's latest contract offer. It marked the second time in a year they turned down a tentative agreement.

The latest rejected deal contained a two-year wage freeze, followed by a one per cent increase in the third year, a 1.5 per cent increase in the fourth year and a 0.5 per cent increase at the end of the fourth year.

With files from the Canadian Press