FALL RIVER: The battle between the N.S. Teachers Union (NSTU) and the provincial government in Nova Scotia has similar resemblances to that of what took place in B.C. in 2016, say two staunch teacher supporters.
Alan Joyce and Stacey Ruddrham are both members of the N.S. Parents for Teachers board. Rudderham is part of the volunteer steering committee.
Joyce has three reasons to be involved with Nova Scotia Parents for Teachers—his four children that attend school in Fall River. A fourth child is going to university and one child that is in the Autism spectrum who attends Lockview.
“The other reason I’m involved is the government is on a mandate to break unions,” he said inside a Fall River coffee shop. “It appears there’s no respect for collective bargaining in the province. I find that concerning.”
He thinks teachers are in a “new normal” when it comes to what they do on their own time.
“I’m hoping it is, for the teachers sake based on what I’m seeing,” he said. “Parents will have to pick up the slack for some of the things the teachers have been volunteering to do over the years, because they’re professionals.”
Joyce said the way the Liberal government under Premier Stephen McNeil are treating teachers is an “embarrassment.”
“I don’t think for one minute they have been negotiating in good faith with the Teachers Union,” said Joyce. “I think this end game was always their plan. They never once sat down and really listened to what the teachers had to say.”
“They’re not respecting the teachers bargaining rights that they have,” she said. “When you hear from the former NSTU President that the very first negotiations when the team showed up to negotiate they weren’t meant by a group of negotiators, they were handed a brown envelope with a final offer in it.
“That’s not negotiating.”
She said to have the Long Service Award (deferred revenue) stripped is anti-union tactics by the provincial government.
“It’s not in the best interest of the province, certainly not in the best interest of public interest,” she said.
Rudderham said the children that are most impacted by what’s happening are those who won’t be graduating and are not leaving the system;
“They’re the ones who will be in the system for many years to come, and the younger students are the ones that matter the most,” she said. “We need to start making these changes to help them.”
She feels the government has gone to the far reaches to make people feel bad about teachers.
“It’s been very demoralizing for them. I’ve seen teachers in tears and I’ve heard them upset at how they’re being characterized,” she said. “I don’t have any tolerance for that message.”
Rudderham has no doubt that the treatment of the teachers will lead to some getting out of the profession or leaving N.S. altogether, taking their skill and knowledge elsewhere, where they’re respected.
Even one of Rudderham’s young children had a message for Premier Stephen McNeil.
“Stephen McNeil needs to go back to school,” said Ellen Rudderham.
Joyce believes Nova Scotia is heading for a B.C.-esque situation, and it will be costly. In B.C., teachers there took the government to the Supreme Court—and won—over the right to negotiate classroom conditions, creating a multi-million dollar obligation for the provincial government there just before a provincial election.
“It’ll be an awful expense for the taxpayers here to deal with,” said Joyce.
Rudderham too believes N.S., who made history with it’s first-ever teachers strike at midnight on Feb. 17, is heading for court.
“Absolutely,” she said without hesitation. “I do think the NSTU has the same standing that the B.C. teachers did. They do have an inherent right to negotiate a fair deal and the government isn’t negotiating.”
She said if Premier McNeil and his government think the public will forget by the time an election is called, he’s sorely mistaken.
“He’s ticked a lot of people off,” said Rudderham. “I don’t think anybody’s going to forget, and right now we’re promising every MLA that votes in favour of this bill that they won’t be re-elected.”