Former Nova Scotia Teachers Union bosses urge rethink on deal
Union members vote on tentative agreement on Dec. 1
Six former Nova Scotia Teachers Union presidents are urging current members to send negotiators back to the bargaining table rather than accept the tentative deal reached with the province a week ago.
In a written statement released Friday, the former union leaders bemoan what they call "the abandonment of normal collective bargaining procedures." They claim the process "was further undermined by the threat of legislation should the union not accept what the government demanded."
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In a letter to the membership last week, the current NSTU president, Shelley Morse, acknowledged the process had been "unprecedented" and the union executive had accepted the deal on Nov. 12 — the same day the offer was made.
But Morse urged teachers to accept the agreement "in the face of draconian legislation."
Her six predecessors, however, are urging a return to bargaining "to clarify" issues and "allow sufficient time for legitimate discussions conducted between the appropriate people to arrive at a resolution."
All together, the six former presidents led the union for 24 years between 1974 and 2012. The group includes the union's most recent head Alexis Allen, as well as Brian Forbes, Donnie MacIntyre, Russell MacDonald, Howard Doucette and Dominique Henry.
'Their right to share their opinion'
Education Minister Karen Casey wasn't aware of the release by the former union bosses when the legislature adjourned for the weekend.
"They have an opinion and obviously they're sharing it. That's their right to share their opinion," she said.
As for whether this statement and a Facebook campaign by some teachers against the deal are signs the tentative agreement is in trouble, Casey wouldn't say.
"The deal will be either ratified or not on December 1st," she said. "I believe that teachers recognize that there have been many things that have been done to improve the teaching and learning environment in the classroom — done by our government."
Union members vote on the deal on Dec. 1. When asked what would happen in the case of a rejection, Casey would only say: "We'll have to see where we go from there."
There has been speculation the Liberal government was prepared to impose contracts on unions, but Premier Stephen McNeil has denied such a move was impending.
"I won't say we didn't look at that at one point," McNeil said. "It's not something we had contemplated doing. I mean every government including the former New Democratic government looked at all of their options.
"Was I legislating a wage pattern? No, I wasn't."