Nova Scotia

Nova Scotia teachers will talk, but still want a 'yes' in strike vote

The Nova Scotia Teachers Union has accepted the education minister's offer to go ahead with a committee to address workplace concerns, but it is still calling for members to support a strike vote on Tuesday.

Education minister 'very pleased' plans for a committee will still happen

Teachers union president Liette Doucet says they are open to solving education concerns anyway they can. (CBC)

The Nova Scotia Teachers Union has accepted the education minister's offer to proceed with a committee to address workplace concerns, but the union's president is still calling for teachers to vote "yes" in next week's strike vote.

Liette Doucet sent a letter to Education Minister Karen Casey on Wednesday, accepting the offer.

"We're willing to look for alternative ways to solve problems," said Doucet. "Really that's what we want to do. We're committed to finding solutions. We want better education in Nova Scotia and we'll use any avenue we can to help with that and to find those solutions."

The committee was one of the clauses contained in the last contract offer teachers resoundingly rejected, despite their executive recommending the deal. It would have members of the union, department and school boards tasked with finding solutions to systemic workplace concerns.

Minister 'very pleased'

On Tuesday, the minister pledged that if good ideas come from that work there would be financial support to put them into action. Casey's comments and offer to proceed with the committee come as a conciliator filed his report, triggering the countdown to when teachers would be in a legal position to strike.

At Province House on Wednesday, Casey said she was delighted by the news.

"I'm very excited and very pleased," she said. "We needed to have an opportunity for teachers' voices to be heard."

Doucet wouldn't speculate at the government's motives, but said it doesn't change anything about Tuesday's vote — leadership is still calling for a strong strike mandate.

"If the intention was for us to change our path, then that absolutely will not happen."

Money remains an issue

Workplace concerns were a major issue for teachers who rejected both of the contract offers in the last year; money was the other, in particular the end of the long-service award.

Doucet said money remains an issue for teachers in terms of fair wage increases, money for addressing the classroom concerns they've long identified and the long-service award.

"Those benefits are benefits we've had for a long time and teachers are not willing to give them up."

No timelines

Although Casey's request was for the committee to begin meeting by the end of the month, Doucet said the union isn't ready to commit to a timeline.

"In order for meaningful change to occur, I think we really need to take the time to make sure the committee works properly."

With files from Jean Laroche