Nova Scotia

Stephen McNeil won't rule out legislation after teachers reject deal

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil hopes negotiations with the province's teachers will resume after they rejected a tentative agreement Tuesday, but he doesn't rule out legislating a contract.

Government has framework of legislation mandating public sector contract, premier says

Nova Scotia Stephen Premier McNeil says he is disappointed the province's teachers rejected the government's contract offer Tuesday. (CBC)

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil hopes negotiations with the province's teachers will resume after they rejected a tentative agreement Tuesday, but he doesn't rule out legislating a contract.

That legislation could also affect other public sector workers who are in contract talks with the province.

"We'll look at our options and we will begin that conversation, but this has only happened yesterday so we'll see what's next," the premier said Wednesday. "We've laid out what we thought was a fair offer, the same offer we've offered across the entire sector.

"Do I have a piece of legislation that's completely solid drafted today? No. But if you're asking me if it's something we thought about as part of our process, of course it is. Every government does, that is just a natural aspect.

"It would be irresponsible if we didn't think about it. We can't have services completely shut down so it's part of that process."

Nova Scotia teachers voted against the contract offer, which had been recommended by the executive of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union. The turnout was high — 94 per cent of members cast ballots. Sixty-one per cent of them voted against it.

McNeil said he was "disappointed" teachers refused to ratify the tentative deal, adding the Liberal government has pumped $65 million into education, capping class sizes and hiring more teachers.

The province's teachers rejected the contract offer made by the province on Tuesday. (iStock)

McNeil would not say how rejection of the teachers deal may affect how other public sector workers vote,

The government and the Nova Government and General Employees Union, which represents 7,600 civil servants, worked out a tentative collective agreement last month similar to what teachers were offered.

The four-year agreement includes a wage freeze for the first two years and a total three-per cent bump in pay over the last two. 

'We'll respond accordingly'

"I haven't heard what the NSGEU is doing," McNeil said."They have a package in front of them They'll make their decision, we'll respond accordingly."

The ongoing labour dispute with teachers won't have a big impact on education in the province, at least right away, an education consultant and government advisor predicted Wednesday

Complaints by teachers of large class sizes, longer work hours and schools in disrepair are ongoing concerns, Jim Gunn, a former school board superintendent told CBC Radio's Information Morning.

"Those are not new issues. Those are quite common over previous years."

Education reforms outlined in the Freeman report will continue "contract or no contract," Gunn said.

"In a way, this is going to be a time of tension and frustration for those ... at the negotiating table. Life goes on, we can do a lot more unrelated to articles in the collective agreement."

'All kinds of education reform can go on'

However, there are obstacles in the collective agreement that prevent some changes, he acknowledged.

The teachers union has to be involved in changes to the school year, removal of principals from the bargaining unit and changes to professional development days.
But processes designed to improve student achievement, the collection of better data from schools, early childhood intervention strategies and career development can move ahead.

"All kinds of education reform can go on. There's a drive on to do more about student achievement levels especially in literacy and numeracy," Gunn said.


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