Talks break off between Nova Scotia teachers and government

Talks have broken off between Nova Scotia teachers and the provincial government.

Union says job action is likely on Dec. 5

Teachers and their supporters participate in a rally on Friday at the constituency office of Liberal MLA Patricia Arab. (Jean Laroche/CBC)

Contract talks between the Nova Scotia Teachers Union and provincial government have broken off.

A statement from the union says job action is likely on Dec. 5. The two sides met twice this week, including on Friday, with a conciliator but could not reach an agreement.

"We are disappointed," union president Liette Doucet said in the statement.

"Government invited us back to the bargaining table but remains unwilling to negotiate working conditions into our collective agreement. Teachers have been crystal clear. They want real, concrete improvements to the system. They want to teach, not more empty promises and rhetoric."

Teachers are in a legal strike position as of Dec. 3, making Dec. 5 the first day of school that could be impacted by job action. The union statement did not stipulate what form the job action would take. The statement said more information on that would come next week.

Nova Scotia Teachers Union president Liette Doucet says job action is likely on Dec. 5. (Paul Palmeter/CBC)

Nova Scotia Premier Stephen McNeil said in a statement he's "disappointed" the union has "walked away from the negotiating table."

"The union tabled an unrealistic proposal that would have cost taxpayers close to $500 million. This is simply not acceptable," he said.

The $500 million figure covers four years of salary increases, long-term service awards and changes in working conditions, press secretary David Jackson said by email.

The total "does not include the impact of extending their wage proposal across the public sector," Jackson said.

The wage increase would be two per cent each year, or higher, depending on the consumer price index, the premier's principal secretary, Laurie Graham, said on Twitter.

The premier's office declined interviews Friday.

'Find a resolution'

In the statement, McNeil said the province offered an additional $10 million to address classroom concerns, to be spent under the direction of teachers, school boards, the union and Education Department. The premier said the union asked for a contract "the province simply cannot afford."

"I want to reassure parents that we will continue to do everything we can to find a resolution as quickly as possible," he said.

The two sides have been engaged in an ongoing contract dispute for the last year. Twice the government and union leaders reached tentative agreements and twice union members voted against those deals.

Last month teachers voted almost unanimously to give their union a strike mandate. After saying it was through negotiating, declining mediation and failing to agree to a conciliation board, last week the government agreed to go back to conciliation with the union.