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NSTU president expecting teachers will vote yes to strike action today

Nova Scotia Teachers Union president Liette Doucet speaks to the media on Wednesday about the union’s upcoming strike vote.
ERIC WYNNE • THE CHRONICLE HERALD
Nova Scotia Teachers Union president Liette Doucet spoke to media last week about the union’s upcoming strike vote. ERIC WYNNE • THE CHRONICLE HERALD

Tuesday is decision day for the Nova Scotia Teachers Union, as members take part in an online strike vote.

Voting will go on all day, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Union president Liette Doucet expects the majority of members will vote in favour of a strike.

“I’ve been hearing from teachers across the province (that) they’re willing to vote yes to a strike,” Doucet said Monday.

“They want the message to be that they do not want a strike, however, that they are willing to vote for a strike because they are not going to sit back and watch this government destroy the education system as it did to health care.”

The union is taking the action in response to the provincial government’s decision to accept the 22 recommendations of the Avis Glaze report on the education system.

Among the contentious measures the report recommends is the removal of school principals and vice-principals from the union, the elimination of English-language school boards in favour of a provincial advisory council and the creation of a college of teachers responsible for licensing and discipline of the profession.

The province intends to introduce legislation to begin the process of implementing the recommendations when the legislature resumes sitting Feb. 27.

Heather Fairbairn, spokeswoman for the Department of Education and Early Childhood Development, reiterated in an emailed statement Monday that a strike would be against the law.

“The Teachers Provincial Agreement is in place until July 31, 2019,” the statement said. “Any job action undertaken while this is in place would be illegal. We are disappointed that the union executive is taking this position and ask that it consider how such action would affect students and their families.”

Doucet said there has been some dialogue with Education Minister Zach Churchill, but so far to no avail.

“They do not want to sit down,” she said of the government. “They do not want to collaborate. They do not want to look ahead to see what the effects are into the future of … implementing these recommendations.”

Doucet hopes a strike mandate will make an impression upon the government.

“We want them to press pause on this legislation, which is really the message that is going to come out from this strike vote,” she said.

“We are not against change. We believe change is necessary. We’ve been asking for change for so long, but the government isn’t willing to put in the investment that’s necessary to make the changes that we need

Doucet said the results will not be released Tuesday night. The union’s provincial executive will meet Wednesday to look at the results and decide what will be released and when.

The executive will also discuss what job actions may or may not be taken.

Doucet would not speculate Monday what that would entail.

“It’s important to show that the NSTU membership is united,” Doucet said. “That we are strong going into this, that we are willing to take a stand collectively against the government, against the reforms that are proposed.”

The union’s position is that the Glaze report recommendations in their entirety are not in the best interest of Nova Scotia students.

“Collectively, as an entire body, we believe that and we are willing to stand up for it,” Doucet said. “So, yes, it is important that we stand up for what’s happening and what we want to express to the government right now. And it’s important for the public to see that the issues that we’re having trouble with are the issues that will affect our students and their children. We want to make sure that our students get the best education possible and we’re willing to stand up as a union to ensure that that happens.”

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