Education

Parents, students and teachers rally before vote

Vote will strike down or uphold a tentative deal between the union and the provincial government

The engaged protesters hold up signs in favour of NS teachers.   Alexandra Biniarz

About 60 people rallied in Grand Parade square on Saturday to support the Nova Scotia Teachers Union as its members decide whether to accept a contract offer from the provincial Liberals.

Union representatives and the government reached a tentative agreement on Jan. 20; now, teachers have to decide whether to accept the contract. They will vote on Feb. 8 over whether to approve or strike down the new offer presented by the province.

Kenzi Donnelly, a student at Prince Andrew High School in Dartmouth, carried a sign that said “I support NS teachers.” 

In October of 2016, Donnelly created a group called Students For Teachers to support the educators during their negotiations with the provincial government.

“We still support teachers 100 per cent,” she said to the Signal. “We will keep fighting for them and for a new Nova Scotian government.”

Snowflakes fell over the crowd as parents and community leaders took turns to speak at the podium. Many students also gave speeches, which were greeted by applause and exclamations of “Hear, hear!”

Tina Roberts-Jeffers spoke about her experience as a mother sending her kids to a low-income school. “Teachers and parents are getting our hands dirty scrubbing away the film of low expectations for our youth,” she said to the crowd. Roberts-Jeffers added that teachers go “above and beyond” for her kids.

Another mother, Michelle Myers, said that there are not enough staff in classrooms to care for her intellectually disabled daughter.  “The government needs to put more resources into both mental health and the education system, because they go hand in hand,” she said. “Right now, they’re both broken.”

Scene from the rally to support Nova Scotian teachers

A photo posted by The Signal Halifax (@signalhfx) on

The last agreement the government had with teachers expired on July 31, 2015. Long negotiations since then culminated in a work-to-rule job action which started in December of 2016. This had teachers teaching during the day but refusing to participate in extracurricular activities after regular school hours. 

After the tentative agreement between the union and government on Jan. 20 2017, the teachers’ work-to-rule briefly stopped. Soon after, union leaders accused the Premier of being “misleading” in a press release after comments he made to the media. Work-to-rule was reinstated on Jan. 30.

A teacher present at the rally, David Zinck, had strong words for Premier Stephen McNeil.

“It’s clear that the province does not understand labour negotiation. It’s gratifying to see this support from parents and community,” he said to the Signal. “It’s a good reminder for government that this issue is not going away.”

A spokesperson for the provincial government said, “In respect of the upcoming vote, government will not be commenting at this time.”