Nova Scotia teachers reject contract offer from province
The Nova Scotia Teachers Union had recommended teachers accept the contract
Nova Scotia teachers have rejected a contract offer that their union recommended accepting from the province.
The turnout for the vote was high with 94 per cent of the members casting their ballots, 61 per cent of whom voted against the contract offer.
This marked a big increase from 2013 when teachers voted on a contract and 73 per cent voted.
Shelley Morse, the president of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union, said this year's big turnout reflected the mood of teachers.
"They are frustrated with their working conditions and they would like to see those addressed in a contract," she said.
Morse said these conditions include large class sizes, longer work hours and schools in disrepair. She said the next step will be for the union to have discussions with the province.
Morse did not want to talk about the possibility of a strike.
"Teachers care about students. They will continue to go to work," she said.
Premier Stephen McNeil said he was "disappointed" the deal was not ratified.
"We have options now to contemplate. We will take the next several days to consider those options and determine the next steps," he said in a statement.
The contract offer consisted of the same wage package being offered to civil servants represented by the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union.
There was a two-year wage freeze, followed by a one per cent increase in the third year. There was a 1.5 per cent increase in the fourth year and a final 0.5 per cent increase on the day the contract expired in year four of the agreement.
In return for accepting the government's salary offer, the McNeil government was going to back off major reforms promised in the education minister's Action Plan for Education, released last January.
Teachers were encouraged to vote for the deal by their union. Morse told her members about 1.5 weeks ago the executive recommended the deal only because of the threat of having a contract imposed.
"In the face of impending draconian legislation it was decided to recommend acceptance of this offer," she said in a two-page bulletin emailed to union members.
This recommendation was panned by six former Nova Scotia Teachers Union presidents. In a written statement released last Friday, the former union leaders bemoaned what they called "the abandonment of normal collective bargaining procedures." They claimed the process "was further undermined by the threat of legislation should the union not accept what the government demanded."