Nova Scotia teachers vote overwhelmingly in support of strike mandate
'We're tired of talking about the problems in the classroom, we want some action.'
Teachers in Nova Scotia could be on strike before Christmas after 96 per cent of the 9,300 public school members voted in favour of job action Tuesday.
"Public school teachers have spoken loud and clear," said Liette Doucet, Nova Scotia Teachers Union president, in a news release sent out Tuesday night.
"We feel strongly about providing better education to Nova Scotia's students and are willing to take action to make meaningful change for the learning and teaching environment in this province."
Teachers had previously voted down two proposed agreements between their union and the Nova Scotia government. The first came in November of 2015 and the second was earlier this month.
Better teaching conditions wanted
The union says the vote shows teachers are united and want better teaching conditions, along with better pay.
"Teachers haven't been genuinely consulted in government decisions affecting classrooms and schools and as a result we are spending less time doing the things that matter most to students," Doucet said.
"I think for the first time teachers are standing up and finally taking a united stand for our students learning conditions," said Tammy Landry, a music teacher at Antigonish Education Centre who has taught in the classroom for 29 years.
"For years now we've been doing more with less and less and less and enough is enough. We're tired of talking about the problems in the classroom, we want some action."
The Liberal government has maintained they need to hold the line with public sector workers.
Education and Early Childhood Development Minister Karen Casey said in an emailed statement Tuesday night that the outcome of the vote is a disappointment for parents and students and for government.
Casey said the vote came after reaching two tentative agreements that were both recommended by the teacher's union to its membership.
Casey said the government is listening. She said classes have been capped, more teachers have been hired and that there's been more invested to increase support for students struggling with math and reading. She said that's proof the province is willing to make necessary investments.
Back to work legislation
It's too early to say if the province will try to bring in back to work legislation or invoke Bill 148 to bring in wage restraint on public sector workers.
"With Bill 148, a negotiated benefit has been taken away, along with our ability to negotiate a fair and reasonable salary package," Doucet said. "Teachers go above and beyond to ensure student needs are met, and we want to be valued and recognized by government for our contribution."
'Looking for solutions'
The earliest teachers could walk the picket line is Dec. 3, but Doucet said the union is looking to avoid a strike if at all possible.
"We'll be looking for solutions," said Doucet. "But teachers have spoken and they've told us loud and clear they are willing to take the job action if that is necessary."
"I don't want to be out of the classroom for my students," said Landry. "But when I'm in the classroom I want to give them the best learning conditions possible and until this government listens that's not going to be able to happen."According to the union, the last time it held a strike vote was in 2002. There has never been a province-wide strike of teachers in Nova Scotia.