Nova Scotia

Paul Wozney tells teachers to reject NSTU's tentative deal

A high school teacher who failed in his attempt to win the presidency of the teacher's union is now trying to convince his colleagues to reject a deal the union executive is recommending.

By accepting deal, teachers would be 'volunteering to be second-class Canadian'

Nova Scotia teachers will vote on a tentative labour agreement Tuesday. (Tom Woodward/Flickr Creative Commons)

A teacher who failed in his bid to become president of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union is challenging his union's executive by campaigning against the tentative labour deal it is recommending.

Nova Scotia's 9,000 teachers vote on that agreement Tuesday.

"I hope on Tuesday that our members find the resolve to say 'no' again," Paul Wozney said. 

Wozney said the deal reached between the NSTU and the province on Sept. 7 is only slightly better than the one 61 per cent of teachers rejected in December 2015. The wage offer remains the same — a three per cent raise over four years. It's the same offer the province has extended to other public sector workers.

Yes vote means 'no leg to stand on'

Wozney said the non-monetary provisions in this deal are most attractive to elementary school teachers who are being offered more time to prepare for classes, as well as extra help in the classroom.

The offer also included forming a "working conditions review team" to address any issues teachers see as a "significant barrier" to carrying out their duties. The province is also proposing a "partnership on systematic working conditions" to resolve issues that cannot be sorted out locally or at the board level.

But Wozney doubts the provincial government would act on complaints by teachers if it meant having to come up with more money for better resources.

"In the long run, maybe it's the first step towards something better. In the short run, does it have any kind of serious power to make a difference in the lives of teachers' conditions in the classroom for students?" he said. "I don't believe that it does."

Wozney wants his colleagues to vote no and essentially force the Liberal government to use the law that started as Bill 148. The law, passed in the early hours of Dec. 18, 2015, after a series of marathon sittings, would impose the province's wage package on public sector workers.

He thinks it should be challenged in the courts.

"If we vote 'yes' we have no leg to stand on," Wozney said. "We could not mount a charter challenge."

Premier against third-party arbitrator

Premier Stephen McNeil has said he will only bring the law into force when a union asks for arbitration. He reiterated after last Thursday's cabinet meeting his government's strong stand against having an outside party decide on contracts.

"We're being fair, and no arbitrator, no third party, will determine what a collective agreement will be in this province," he told reporters.

McNeil said his government has worked hard to improve classroom conditions.

"We've capped class sizes, we've hired 300 more teachers, we've continued to work towards improving the learning environment," he said. "I've been in more schools in my three years, I would argue, than any premier in our history."

Wozney sees it differently, pointing to the government's hard refusal to negotiate salary increases.

"If we vote 'yes' to this contract, we essentially are volunteering to be second-class Canadian," he said. 

Union president Liette Doucet declined a request to be interviewed. According to the NSTU, she is the official spokesperson for the union and will only speak after the vote results are announced.