Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia teachers, union and students weigh in on contract dispute

A group of supporters of Nova Scotia teachers held a forum Sunday to discuss the dispute between teachers and the province. Many parents say the union isn't being clear about what it's asking for.

Talks broke off between teachers and the province Friday, teachers union expects job action by Dec. 5

Organizer Kate Ervine, far right, says parents have questions about how to prepare for any possible job action. (Stephanie vanKampen/CBC)

Many parents who attended a forum in support of Nova Scotia teachers Sunday say the union needs to be clear on what it is asking for in the ongoing contract dispute with the province. 

About two dozen people, including parents, teachers, students and representatives from the union gathered in Halifax for the event, which was hosted by the Nova Scotia Parents for Teachers group.

Nova Scotia Teachers Union president Liette Doucet told the group she cannot reveal specific details or clarify the union's demands due to contract negotiations.

Saturday Premier Stephen McNeil said the province's proposal would cost $41 million compared to the union's, which he said would cost $508 million. ​But Doucet said Sunday she could not refute or verify those numbers.

'It's frustrating'

​"It is frustrating. I would like to be able to tell the public what exactly we are asking for, and what the discussions are at the table but I can't do that," she said. 

Doucet described the union's proposal in broad terms as "trying to alleviate the tasks that teachers are required to do so that they can spend more time actually working toward success for their students." 

Talks between the two sides broke off Friday, with the Nova Scotia Teachers Union saying it expects job action by Dec. 5. Teachers are in a legal strike position as of Dec. 3, making the following Monday the first day of school that could be affected.

The union, which represents about 10,000 educators, has never said what form the job action would take, if any. 

Liette Doucet, president of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union, said the union will release more information about possible job action this week. (Stephanie vanKampen/ CBC )

Classroom issues

Many of the questions at the forum focussed on the issues teachers are dealing with in classrooms. The union has said teachers want smaller class sizes and changes to class composition, along with help with administrative duties, such as photocopying. 

High school student Manuel Moncayo-Adams said some students might join the picket line in the event of job action. He said students have noticed their teachers as stressed and stretched thin.

"We have had a decreased print credit budget," he said. "Now you have to take time out of your day to ask students, 'print out this course material, because I can't give it to you.'" 

Preparing for job action

The event's organizer, Kate Ervine, said she and other parents are concerned about the lack of resources for students.

"I believe the long-term consequences of staying where we are at is not acceptable anymore. We can't go with the status quo, we need to actually go in a different direction, so I believe that we need to continue to support teachers, wherever that ends up," she said. 

The Nova Scotia Parents for Teachers group on Facebook has nearly 9,000 members and organizers of Sunday's forum say they wanted to discuss issues in person. (Stephanie vanKampen/CBC)

Ervine said parents are preparing for the practical questions posed by possible job action. 

"Talking about how we might be able to pool our resources to rotate between homes," she said.

The province and teachers union have been engaged in an ongoing contract negotiation for the last year. Twice the government and union leaders reached tentative agreements and twice union members voted against those deals.

The Nova Scotia Parents for Teachers Facebook group has almost 9,000 members. Ervine said Sunday's session was an opportunity to discuss concerns face to face. 

The CBC's Stephanie vanKampen live blogged from the forum.