Nova Scotia

Liberal government makes minor amendment to Bill 75

The McNeil government has tweaked its bill to impose a contract on Nova Scotia's 9,300 teachers. The amendment allows for an arbitrator to rule if there is a dispute amongst the 14 members of the Council to Improve Classroom Conditions.

Arbitrator to have power to resolve disputes on Council to Improve Classroom Conditions

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil says Bill 75 imposing a contract on the province's 9,300 teachers was necessary. (The Canadian Press)

The McNeil government has made a tiny change to the proposed law that will impose a new contract on the province's 9,300 teachers. The amendment to Bill 75 will allow an arbitrator to be called in if there's a dispute that cannot be resolved between members of the Council to Improve Classroom Conditions.

That 14-member body is being created by the governing Liberals, to come up with concrete recommendations to bring improvements to the classroom or to the working conditions of teachers.

Reasonable request

"They [the Nova Scotia Teachers Union] asked for this," said Premier Stephen McNeil. "We looked at it. It was a reasonable request."

"We don't see, particularly in the beginning, that there will be a requirement [for an arbitrator]. As this committee continues to go on there will obviously become tougher and tougher issues so that's why it's there."

The provision was part of the last deal the provincial government reached with union negotiators, but the tentative agreement was rejected by rank and file teachers. In that agreement, the arbitrator could rule on issues worth a maximum of $250,000 a year. The government is doubling that amount in its amendment to Bill 75.

The final reading of Bill 75 began Tuesday after the Heritage Day long weekend. (Jean Laroche/CBC)

McNeil says the original amount was too low when you consider a province-wide application to any recommendation which is why his government set the higher limit. 

The provincial government has committed to spending a maximum of $20-million over the next two years to improve classroom conditions.

"It's not the biggest thing in the universe"

The NDP proposed the amendment to the government on Friday, just hours after the premier said the bill would pass as is, without modification.

NDP leader Gary Burrill calls it a modest improvement.

"It's not the biggest thing in the universe but it's a thing," he said.

PC Leader Jamie Baillie isn't convinced the council will be able to come up with any workable improvements. That's because, he says, there's no trust between teachers and the provincial government.

"Any committee that represents two sides has to be based on trust and that trust is gone."

Bill 75 likely to pass Tuesday 

Opposition members continued to slow down passage of Bill 75 through the early morning hours of Tuesday, as they had last week. Despite the concerted effort by the PCs and NDP, the proposed law is likely to pass third and final reading some time late Tuesday evening.