Parent facing school trip cancellation says teachers' conference in Hawaii 'hard to swallow'
CBC News revealed some teachers travelled to education conferences Honolulu, Orlando and Vancouver
A Truro parent whose daughter is facing the cancellation of an international school trip wants to know why Nova Scotia teachers are allowed to travel to out-of-province conferences during work-to-rule, but can't chaperone trips planned before the job action began.
"It makes me wonder why I have to lose my money and the teachers don't have to," Rob Landry told CBC's Maritime Noon.
Landry said he paid about $4,000 for his daughter to go to Spain for 10 days in March, with other students from the Cobequid Educational Centre. He wonders why teachers won't be allowed to escort the students as planned.
"It's kind of hard to swallow when I've paid money prior to this work-to-rule situation," he said.
Earlier this week, CBC News revealed some teachers travelled to education conferences in Hawaii in January, despite work-to-rule standards limiting the events teachers are required to attend and supervise.
The Nova Scotia Teachers Union gave the OK for 163 of its members to attend more than a dozen conferences over a three-month period. The expenses were approved and booked before teachers began work-to-rule job action on Dec. 5.
In a statement released Friday, the union said school boards made it known to teachers they have the right to professional development, attend approved conferences and be reimbursed.
"This does not change even if the approved PD activity turns out to fall within a 'work-to-rule' or 'full strike,'" the statement said.
"As long as the teacher actually does attend and fully participate in the preapproved PD activity, the previous commitment to reimbursement will be honored."
'It's kind of hard to swallow'
Landry said his daughter's trip to Spain was arranged last year through EF Educational Tours. If it's cancelled, Landry stands to lose about half of what he's paid because the insurance company doesn't recognize work-to-rule as a cause for cancellation.
Landry says the insurance company told him of a similar work-to-rule situation in Ontario. A parent was brought in to substitute the teacher on the trip. He says he hopes it won't come to that in Nova Scotia.
"My daughter was crazily excited to go to Spain. Who wouldn't be?" he said.
"I'm hoping [the union] can say, 'You know what, we understand the situation that you're in, you paid for this, it was set up last year. We'll relax our work-to-rule-standards to allow these trips to occur, so that the parents aren't financially burdened.'"
Premier Stephen McNeil said Friday he's heard from parents across the province with concerns about trips and sporting events being cancelled or postponed.
"Whether I have a contract or not, I can't force people to coach, or can't force people to do stuff over and beyond what their contract says," McNeil said.
He said negotiations are ongoing. Talks are scheduled to continue over the weekend.
"All of us — teachers, parents, individuals and communities — recognize that the extra curricular activities of education are an important part of the development of our young people and children. It's also part of what builds the community spirit in schools," McNeil said.
On Thursday, Education Minister Karen Casey suggested teachers who had booked their travel and could be out of pocket by cancelling their trips were putting their interests ahead of the needs of students.
Talks to continue this weekend
The two sides met for three days this week, with a conciliator.
Under work-to-rule, teachers are required to do their jobs exactly as outlined by the contract, meaning they no longer organize after-school events such as plays, concerts or sports.
Their contract expired in July 2015.
With files from Jean Laroche, Maritime Noon, Michael Gorman and Sherri Borden Colley