Premier Stephen McNeil says 'compromise' possible with teachers union
Legislation aimed at killing school boards, taking administrators out of union being delayed
Premier Stephen McNeil talked on Monday about a possible "compromise" in the dispute between his government and the Nova Scotia Teachers Union.
It was the first sign of a thaw in what has been an ice-cold relationship between the union and the provincial government.
"I don't know if we'll get to where everyone wants to be but I do believe there's always room for compromise in that," McNeil told reporters after his hour-long meeting with union president Liette Doucet at his office Monday.
"I believe we have certain objectives. They have certain objectives. We won't agree on everything but I believe there is definitely room for us to compromise."
The government is backing off its plan to immediately bring in legislation to make the administrative changes it wants. The plan had been to introduce at least one bill tomorrow, at the start of the spring sitting, but McNeil said that would not happen.
Doucet also sounded more conciliatory in her brief conversation with reporters.
"All I can say is that we are committed to working with the government to make improvements for our students," she said.
Neither would discuss the details of their talks or say when they will meet again. However, the fact the two sides are continuing to talk is a good sign, according to Doucet.
"I think it's positive that government's willing to discuss issues with us," she said. "I think it's positive that government is willing to sit down with us and to listen to what we have to say.
"I'm hoping that continues."
Inclusive education report coming soon
For his part, McNeil sent the signal he is looking for support to implement the recommendations coming from the Commission on Inclusive Education, which is due to be released next month.
"I will require classroom teachers to help me implement that report," he said. "That is ultimately where I am focused on today and beyond this session of the legislature.
"Ultimately I believe that's what classroom teachers want and I believe it is what will have the greatest impact on our system."
The province's announcement last month that it plans to dissolve the seven elected English-speaking school boards and remove principals and vice-principals from the Nova Scotia Teachers Union sparked a dispute with the union. The union held a strike vote last week in which 82.5 per cent of voters supported job action.
McNeil said he was not surprised by the strength of the mandate.
"I don't think anyone would be surprised that unions in this province haven't embraced our government," he said.