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Friday, February 17, 2017

For the first time ever, Nova Scotia’s teachers just walked out on strike

The labour war between the provincial Liberals and the teachers union is all kinds of fucked up, yo.

Posted By and on Fri, Feb 17, 2017 at 6:30 AM

click to enlarge Protesters aren't messing around with these signs. - REBECCA DINGWELL
  • Rebecca Dingwell
  • Protesters aren't messing around with these signs.

After months of back-and-forth negotiations, three rejected tentative agreements and work-to-rule job action, the conflict between the Nova Scotia Teachers Union (NSTU) and the provincial government has come to a head.

For the first time in its union's history, teachers across Nova Scotia are on strike for the day.

“In the entire 122-year history of the NSTU, our members have never faced a more anti-education premier than Stephen McNeil,” union president Liette Doucet said in a press release. “The legislation he introduced [this week] limits teachers’ right to strike, erodes their ability to negotiate a fair contract and prevents them from advocating for reforms to improve learning conditions for their students.”



The historic labour action is happening while the provincial Liberal government tries to rush its Teachers’ Professional Agreement Act through the legislature. The Act, which would impose a new contract on the province's 9,300 teachers, already went through first and second readings, and was pushed through overcrowded Law Amendments Committee meetings earlier this week.

Around 400 members of the public tried to air their grievances about Bill 75 during the Law Amendments Committee meetings on Wednesday and Thursday, but only some 100 were actually allowed to speak.


Karin Martin, a teacher and parent of school-aged children, was one of Thursday’s presenters.


“I am deeply troubled by the actions of this government,” she said, urging the province to “return to the bargaining table with actual justice in mind,” as she felt “that’s not what we have seen up to this point.”


Tara Arseneau, teacher and parent, presented to the committing by pointing out problems teachers are facing such as large classroom sizes. She said the government is trying to “put a Band-Aid on these issues.”


“It may be easy to read about the issues,” said Arseneau. “It is different when you are actually immersed in the issues.”


“Your committee is not going to work because the committees you have already put in place have not worked.”


Multiple motions to extend time for additional presentations during Thursday's meeting were shot down by the committee's Liberal members. Written submissions from presenters are available here.

Debate on Bill 75 has continued overnight and will likely last throughout all of Friday. Meanwhile, thousands of teachers and supporters have been protesting outside Province House overnight, and those demonstrations continue today.

The union’s members initially voted in favour of work stoppage back in October, after two previous tentative agreements with the province were rejected. In December, after last-ditch talks between both sides broke down, teachers began working to rule: only performing contractually-obligated work. In other words, they were no longer responsible for activities such as extracurriculars or field trips.


The province responded by locking students out of school on December 5, claiming work-to-rule made for an unsafe environment. That move came under fire—by students, parents and opposing political parties—and after hundreds protested outside Province House the government quickly back-pedalled.


Hundreds of Nova Scotian students have shown their support for teachers, including participating in walk-outs and rallies. Other students are calling for teachers to end work-to-rule as soon as possible.

A mass rally featuring NSTU members, supporters and any and all available union members is being planned for noon outside of the Legislature. It's expected to be one of the largest political demonstration in Nova Scotian history.


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