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Teachers to hold one-day strike on Friday

There will be another storm day for Nova Scotia students Friday. A storm of discontent has spurred the province's 9,300 public school teachers to launch a one-day strike Friday.
Teachers and supporters demonstrate outside as Bill 75, the Teachers' Professional Agreement and Classroom Improvements (2017) Act, is tabled by the government at Province House in Halifax on Tuesday. (TIM KROCHAK / Local Xpress)

There will be another storm day for Nova Scotia students on Friday. A storm of discontent has spurred the province's 9,300 public school teachers to launch a one-day strike.

"In the entire 122-year history of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union, our members have never faced a more anti-education premier than Stephen McNeil," union president Liette Doucet said in a news release to announce the one-day walkout.

"The legislation he introduced yesterday limits teachers' rights to strike and erodes their ability to improve learning conditions for their students. The result is the first provincewide teacher strike ever in Nova Scotia."

The Liberal government introduced the controversial Bill 75 on Tuesday to legislate an imposed contract on teachers. The bill has been debated throughout the early morning hours Wednesday and a vote to suspend the debate was to be held just before 2 p.m.

Throughout Tuesday evening and Wednesday morning, opposition members continually resurrected the premier's words while he was on the other side of the House about the importance of collective bargaining.

NDP House leader Dave Wilson said there is no give-and-take with this government.

"They are not going to negotiate fairly as previous governments have," Wilson said. "I don't know why this government is so determined to roll over how collective bargaining has taken place in this province."

Tim Houston, the Tory MLA for Pictou East, said the House was recalled on an emergency basis but there is no emergency because teachers are still teaching.

"This is manufactured chaos," Houston said. "It's an all-night session to deal with the premier's emergency. It's not an emergency, it's a political game for the premier to advance his agenda of political gamesmanship. We're here to deal with the premier's and the minister's inability to treat people fairly."

Houston said there had only been one emergency all-night sitting of the House between the years 1994 and 2013 but the current Liberal government has had four emergency sittings in the past three years.

"We're here today to talk about a contract that will likely encourage teachers to only work to the terms of the contract, that will allow work-to-rule to passively continue," Houston said. "The bill does nothing to resolve the problems in the classroom."

Both the premier and Education Minister Karen Casey said an imposed contract is necessary because the union's work-to-rule directives, launched Dec. 5, are having a negative impact on students.

Doucet said the bill shows a complete lack of respect for teachers and leaves the membership with no choice but to stage Friday's walkout.

Teachers will use the day to ensure government MLAs know the full impact of the McNeil government's actions on the Nova Scotia public education system and public-sector workers, Doucet said.

"We believe this legislation is unconstitutional and we owe it to our colleagues past, present and future to take this stand. Stephen McNeil says he wants to hear from teachers, so on Friday, teachers will spend the day ensuring the premier and the Liberal caucus get the message — his government's bully tactics can no longer be tolerated. "

If the bill were to pass second reading Wednesday afternoon, it will probably move to the law amendments committee on Thursday and Friday.

Wilson said more than 200 people have asked to present their opinions during law amendments.

"Let's be accommodating," he said. "We have to make sure that if we are going forward with this that you listen to the presentations, listen to the concerns of those who are here in person and those who will email," Wilson said.

The New Democrat said the bill will hurt the teaching profession.

"Government has a huge job in front of them. This bill does little to inspire the spirit of volunteerism among our teachers. The relationship between teachers and government needs to be repaired and it's not going to be an easy job. "

He said Liberal MLAs will have a lot of explaining to do on the doorsteps during the next election campaign.


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