Nova Scotia teachers reject latest tentative contract deal with province
Government 'won't be returning' to the bargaining table after second straight rejection
Nova Scotia's 9,000 public school teachers have rejected the latest deal from the province and are considering going on strike as the government says it won't be returning to the bargaining table.
The Nova Scotia Teachers Union said voter turnout was at 94 per cent, exactly the same as for the last contract vote in December 2015.
The union tweeted that 70 per cent voted against it on Tuesday. That's up from 61 per cent in December.
Public school <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NSTUMembers?src=hash">#NSTUMembers</a> vote 70% to reject Tentative Agreement <a href="https://t.co/XyRGOIEIfR">https://t.co/XyRGOIEIfR</a>—@NSTeachersUnion
Strike option on the table
Liette Doucet, the president of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union, said the union will consider seeking a strike vote from members.
"I think teachers are tired of talking about what their issues are and they are not being listened to by the government. Teachers have a job that is virtually impossible to do right now," she said.
"They need to be valued. They need to be thought of as professionals. They need the government to listen to what they are saying."
Contract expired more than a year ago
Doucet said despite the second rejection, the NSTU is still in touch with what members want. She said they recommended the deal because it was the best they could get, but would respect the teachers' vote.
"When we went back to the bargaining table our hands were tied when it came to monetary issues because of Bill 148. I think teachers were expecting more to come back to them."
She said the vote could lead the Liberal government to use a new law passed as Bill 148 that would impose the province's wage package on public sector workers.
The teachers' contract expired in July 2015.
Government waiting on union's next move
Karen Casey, the minister of education and early childhood development, said she was "very disappointed" with the vote.
"The collective bargaining process has run its course. This is the second time we reached a tentative agreement with different bargaining teams from the NSTU that was rejected by the membership," she said in a news release.
"We will not be returning to the table, we now await the union's decision."
Baillie says McNeil playing games
Progressive Conservative Leader Jamie Baillie accused Premier Stephen McNeil of "game-playing" with education.
"Premier McNeil's refusal to address meaningful classroom reform has led to this unfortunate situation," he said in a news release. "We expect him to use the tools he has to ensure there is no interruption in classroom learning."
The failed deal, which had been recommended by the union executive, had the same financials as the last contract. It contained a two-year wage freeze, followed by a one per cent increase in the third year, a 1.5 per cent increase in the fourth year and a final 0.5 per cent increase on the day the contract would have expired in year four of the agreement.
The contract froze the long-service award for current teachers and made it unavailable to new teachers. The deal also contained a "me too" clause that gave the union a better deal on long-service awards if one could be negotiated between the government and another union.