News / Halifax

'No consensus:' N.S. education minister says principals a key issue in fight with teachers' union

Zach Churchill says the Glaze report's recommendation about ousting principals and vice principals from teachers union is sticking point.

Nova Scotia Education Minister Zach Churchill during an interview at the Metro Halifax office on Nov. 8, 2017.

Zane Woodford/Metro

Nova Scotia Education Minister Zach Churchill during an interview at the Metro Halifax office on Nov. 8, 2017.

The decision by the Nova Scotia Teachers Union to hold a strike vote next week is being called “disconcerting” by the province’s education minister.

The union announced late Tuesday it was holding an illegal strike vote on Feb. 20 in direct response to its opposition over the province’s decision to implement recommendations outlined in the Glaze Report.

On Wednesday morning, education minister Zach Churchill told reporters in Halifax that any disruption to classes would not be in the best interests of students.

Churchill said he recognized there are “some key contentious issues” among consultant Avis Glaze's 22 recommendations.

One issue Churchill suggested was fuelling backlash was the recommendation that principals and vice principals be removed from the NSTU.

“I know there’s obviously some key contentious issues, particularly around the union membership piece that I believe is really driving the opposition to this primarily,” he said.

That prompted reaction from NSTU president Liette Doucet.

“It sounds like the minister is trying to make it sound like we only care about membership dues, which is ridiculous,” she said in an interview.

“Our concerns, they’re about public education. We are looking for changes but the changes being pushed through the legislature right now very quickly are not the changes we are looking for.”

Doucet said they want the premier to put a hold on pushing through any Glaze Report recommendations until meaningful consultation has taken place with teachers.

Churchill said he plans to continue his series of meetings with teachers and administrators across the province to discuss the Glaze Report and related concerns.

He also said he believes implementing the recommendations will help improve the province’s education system.

“We know we need to do better. A challenge is there’s not necessarily a consensus point on what better looks like or how to do that,” Churchill said.

“I think that’s the challenge, because there is disagreement on what needs to be improved. But at the end of the day we’re elected to make decisions.”

When asked what he’d say to parents and students concerned about the impact of any potential strike action by teachers, Churchill said he didn’t want to “hypothesize" on a decision that hasn't yet been made.

“There is a process in place for illegal strike action that is already here, and I really just hope it doesn’t come to that,” he said.

Also on Wednesday, the provincial NDP released an online petition calling for a pause on the implementation of changes to the education act based on the Glaze Report.

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