TEACHERS

Bill 75 passes as teachers rally once more

Controversial bill is made into law despite lively protests outside the legislature

Protesters encircle Stephen McNeil’s SUV yelling “shame” as he leaves the legislature.   Jennifer Lee

Bill 75, which imposes a contract on public school teachers, is now law.

Hundreds of teachers were protesting outside the Nova Scotia legislature when the vote was held at 4:45 p.m. Tuesday.

The legislation imposes a four-year contract on 9,300 members of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union (NSTU). It ends the work-to-rule job action that teachers started on Dec. 5 to back their contract demands.

“We’re willing to keep going and keep speaking up,” said Liette Doucet, president of the NSTU. “We have no indication right now that this government is going to make any difference (in classroom conditions), but that’s what we’re fighting for.”

MLAs sat in the House at 12:01 a.m. to begin their third and final reading of the bill. The legislation is a combination of the least favourable aspects of three proposed contracts, all of which were rejected by teachers.

During Tuesday’s debate, the Liberal government made a minor amendment to the bill. The amendment stated that an arbitrator may be used to settle disputes among the council that is being created to improve classroom conditions.

Teachers return to class

On Friday, thousands of teachers, parents and students from all over Nova Scotia gathered in front of Province House to protest Bill 75. The provincewide walkout was the first teachers strike in the 122-year history of the NSTU.

Teachers returned to class Tuesday after the long weekend feeling discouraged and frustrated over the bill.

“For us to go back with absolutely nothing is really demoralizing to our profession,” said Charyl O’Quinn, a Grade 2 and 3 teacher at Oxford School in Halifax.

“We’re all very upset because nothing’s been fixed with the classroom conditions, which were the only things we were concerned about at this point.”

Hundreds of teachers take to the steps of Province House on Tuesday.   Jennifer Lee

Wade Smith, principal of Citadel High School in Halifax, is eager to move past this stage and help his staff move on after work-to-rule and Friday’s strike.

“The wait has been long,” Smith said. “Not just the wait over the past couple of days but since Dec. 5., so it’s been a long haul in terms of us being mentally prepared to go back.”

Teachers are remaining hopeful that future governments will reverse this law.

“We’re hopeful this will get struck down by future governments,” said Danielle Therault, a Grade 8 teacher who attended both rallies.

I think this contract they are facing down our throats is totally illegal,” said Tanya Mackey, a teacher at Riverside Education Centre in Enfield who was also at Tuesday’s protest. “If you go into a contract under duress it’s not legally binding.”

Moving forward

Gary Burrill, leader of the Nova Scotia NDP, condemns the actions of the McNeil government.

“Our schools are in crisis,” Burrill in a news release after the vote. “Stephen McNeil keeps telling teachers he can’t make the investments that they know are needed.”

For now, Nova Scotia teachers will return to the classroom