Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia teachers call for conciliation board in labour dispute

The Nova Scotia Teachers Union is calling on the province to agree to let a conciliation board try to resolve the labour impasse between the two sides.

Government must agree in order for process to go ahead

Nova Scotia Teachers Union president Liette Doucet. (CBC)

The Nova Scotia Teachers Union wants a conciliation board to help settle its labour dispute with the province.

The union sent the request late Thursday afternoon to Labour Minister Kelly Regan and is calling on Education Minister Karen Casey to do the same, as the process requires agreement from both sides.

"We're prepared to try every avenue that we have" to avoid job action, Nova Scotia Teachers Union president Liette Doucet said in an interview.

Given that the government won't allow the matter to go to arbitration, Doucet said the conciliation board is another way to try to reach an agreement. If the two sides agree to the process, things would begin within 14 days of the initial ask.

"I would hope that they would agree because I would hope that they're looking for a resolution to this dispute, as we are," said Doucet.

Workplace concerns

A conciliation board would bring both sides together and eventually report on whether an agreement might be struck. Its recommendations are not binding.

Regan told reporters Thursday she had not spoken to Casey about the request.

"It is not up to me to decide if there's a conciliation board or not. The union has requested one. Now the government has to respond."

Earlier this week teachers voted resoundingly in favour of a strike mandate following the rejection by union members of two tentative agreements their union reached with the province. In an effort to ratchet down tensions, the two sides have agreed to go ahead with a committee looking at workplace concerns.

Premier Stephen McNeil has said his government is prepared to offer supports teachers need to improve classroom conditions, but he has said the government will not move from its wage offer of a three per cent increase spread across four years.

Doucet would not comment on what aspects of the dispute a conciliation board might be best suited to address.

At the end of the process, the board's report would go to the labour minister. If an agreement can't be reached, that report would trigger a seven-day period during which neither party can take action, followed by a 30-day cooling off period before union members could go on strike.

With files from Jean Laroche

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