'A historic moment:' Nova Scotia teachers walking off the job on Friday
Nova Scotia Teachers Union say it will be a one-day strike in response to Liberal legislation
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The Nova Scotia Teachers Union will hold a one-day, provincewide strike on Friday - its first ever - to protest legislation imposing a four-year contract.
“It's been 122 years and there has never been a full-out strike. It's a historic moment in the history of the NSTU,” union president Liette Doucet said at the legislature Wednesday.
“It shows that teachers are fed up. They are tiring of this government bullying them.”
Members of the legislature spoke all night in an effort to slow down passage of the law, the Teachers Professional Agreement and Classroom Improvement Act, which would end a 16-month-long contract dispute.
Doucet said teachers will spend Friday protesting the province's tactics, but Liberal house leader Michel Samson said there is public support for the legislation.
“I think Nova Scotians will look at the fact that we had three tentative agreements that the union executive accepted. They had the option to walk away each time from the table, to call a strike, refuse to recommend it to its membership. It didn't,” Samson told reporters.
Tory Opposition Leader Jamie Baillie said Wednesday he'd rather not see a strike, but teachers have reached the point where they are intensely frustrated by classroom conditions.
“When they (the government) keep appointing more committees, when they keep turning a blind eye to today's classrooms, this is what inevitably happens and I think it's on the premier's shoulders that he's pushed teachers to the breaking point,” he said.
NDP Leader Gary Burrill said his party supports the strike action, adding Liberal Premier Stephen McNeil should have considered arbitration as a solution to the impasse.
“Now, he has refused to respect collective bargaining and is forcing a rejected contract on teachers,” he said. “The premier must take responsibility for the situation we are in.”
The one-day strike comes at a time Nova Scotia parents are well-used to scrambling for child-care, following a series of snow days.
The new contract contains a three per cent salary increase and incorporates many of the elements contained in the first two tentative agreements rejected by NSTU members.
The salary package includes zero per cent for the first two years, followed by increases of one per cent in the third year and 1.5 per cent in the fourth, with a 0.5 per cent increase on the last day of the agreement.
The bill also establishes a council to improve classroom conditions and a commitment of $20 million over two years to address that issue.
There will also be a three-person commission on inclusive education that will be launched 30 days after the bill is passed, with recommendations to be implemented by the beginning of the next school year.
The third tentative deal was rejected last week by a vote of 78.5 per cent.
“We understand that parents have been inconvenienced and on Friday they will be as well, however it is time to take a stand,” Doucet said Wednesday.
“They've been inconvenienced over the last two years and longer because their concerns for their children in the classroom have not been addressed by this government.”