Teachers union recommends Nova Scotia's offer to avoid imposed contract

The Nova Scotia Teachers Union and the province may have a tentative deal, but the union's president has told her members the executive is recommending the deal only because of the threat of having a contract imposed.

Teachers are scheduled to vote electronically on the government's offer on Dec. 1

The tentative agreement includes the same wage package being offered civil servants represented by the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union. (iStock)

The Nova Scotia Teachers Union and the province may have a tentative deal, but the union's president has told her members the executive is recommending 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," said Shelley Morse, the president of the union, in a two-page bulletin emailed to union members. 

The tentative agreement includes the same wage package being offered civil servants represented by the Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union.

There's a two-year wage freeze, followed by a one per cent increase in the third year. There's a 1.5 per cent increase in the fourth year and a final 0.5 per cent increase on the day the contract expires in year four of the agreement.

​But in return for accepting the government's meager salary offer, the McNeil government is backing off major reforms promised in the education minister's Action Plan for Education, released last January.

Major reforms removed

The union is, in fact, using the government's decision to not push ahead on those reforms as a major selling point for this agreement.

"What has been eliminated are the egregious items found on page 17 of the plan that would have required changes to the [Teachers' Provincial Agreement]," says the bulletin.

"Most of the items will not be implemented without agreement from the NSTU.

"These included: a lengthened and restructured work day; a lengthened and restructured school year; elimination of service awards on a go-forward basis; changes to teachers' responsibilities for student supervision; changes to certification including approval processes; reporting to work on inclement weather days; changes to access and distribution of professional development funding through article 60; and the removal of administrators from the NSTU."

Those were all issues in the minister's action plan that needed to be negotiated or implemented with the co-operation of the teachers union.

It is now unclear how the minister will move ahead on those contentious issues.

At the expense of 'sweeping changes'

An expert panel, which delivered an education report in October 2014, heard from almost 20,000 people.

"The past 25 years have shown that incremental reforms with too little attention to prioritization and integration are not resulting in the depth of change our school system needs," the report concluded.

Education Minister Karen Casey accepted the panel's report and its conclusions last January when she released her action plan.

"The action plan will make sweeping changes to renew, refocus and rebuild a system that has not kept pace with changes in society, the labour market or technology," she said. "Each change is geared to increase student achievement and student success."

The deal with teachers appears to come at the expense of those "sweeping changes" in return for labour peace in the classroom.

Meanwhile on Friday, Premier Stephen McNeil denied contracts would be forced on anyone.

"There's not been legislation that's been reported that we were going to force a wage pattern on people," McNeil said.

"I won't say we didn't look at that at one point. It's not something we had contemplated doing. I mean every government including the former New Democratic government looked at all of their options," he said. 

"Was I legislating a wage pattern? No, I wasn't."

Teachers are scheduled to vote electronically on the government's offer on Dec. 1.

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About the Author

Jean Laroche

Reporter

Jean Laroche has been a CBC reporter for 32 years. He's been covering Nova Scotia politics since 1995 and has been at Province House longer than any sitting member.

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