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NSTU and province end dispute

Teachers are permitted to resume extracurricular activities starting Monday

4 min read
caption A protester from Monday night's NSTU rally.
Sofia Ortega


caption A protester from Monday night’s NSTU rally.
Sofia Ortega

Nova Scotia teachers will be ending their work-to-rule job action on Jan. 23 after coming to a tentative agreement with the province.

If members of the Nova Scotia Teacher’s Union (NSTU) vote yes, this agreement will conclude the long-running negotiations. They began when the teachers’ contract expired in July 2015. Collective bargaining has been ongoing since then.

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This is not the first tentative agreement that has been put forth. NSTU members rejected a tentative agreement on Dec. 1, 2015. They also rejected another in October 2016 because it “did not address serious issues” and would keep teachers from doing “their best work for students,” according to an NSTU media release.

On Oct. 25, 2016, Nova Scotia teachers voted 96 per cent in favour of taking strike action in some form — be it work-to-rule, rotating strikes, or a full walkout — if they deemed it necessary. Bargaining resumed on Nov. 17, but broke down on Nov. 25. This led to the NSTU announcing that the teachers would start work-to-rule, which began on Dec. 5.

As part of work-to-rule, teachers taught regular classes in school, but cancelled all extra-curricular activities and events. The teachers also refrained from doing certain work such as data entry and answering school email outside of work hours. Teachers were to show up 20 minutes before the start of classes each day and leave 20 minutes after they concluded.  

Responding to this, the province closed all schools for the first day of the work-to-rule action, citing “safety concerns” for students. Schools re-opened around the province the next day.

The issue has proven a damaging one for the reputation of Premier Stephen McNeil as multiple petitions have appeared online calling for his resignation.

In response to the tentative agreement, Education and Early Childhood Development Minister Karen Casey said in a press release that she is “pleased to have reached this point.”

She added that “both government and the union worked hard to come to this agreement.”

NSTU president Liette Doucet acknowledged the effects these negotiations have had in a statement.

“We know that this has been a difficult time for teachers, students, parents and families,” she said. “We thank and appreciate the patience and support we’ve received.”

Earlier this year, parents had mixed feelings about the issue.

The work-to-rule action brought up anxieties among students and parents over special needs programs, class trips and graduation, including the writing of reference letters to universities

Some parents have also spoken out in support of the teachers.

“As the parent of a special needs young man who recently graduated from high school, I have seen first hand what our teachers are facing in their classrooms,” said Tracey Hilliard on Jan. 9. She also has a child currently in the third grade.

“It infuriates me that our government cannot and will not listen to the pleas of our teachers,” she added.

Cyndi Jennings, a mother of two boys in grades eight and 11, is especially critical of Casey.

“She’s made a mockery of herself at every turn,” she says, citing the one-day lockout on Dec. 5 and perceived violations of a media blackout as among the minister’s mistakes.

She also says her two boys have had “an awful journey navigating the public school system and getting them the supports they need to succeed.”

Details of the agreement will not be available before the scheduled ratification vote on Feb. 8.


Jan. 21, 2017: An earlier headline said that extracurricular activities would all resume on Monday. If fact, teachers are simply permitted to begin resuming them then.

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  1. B

    Basil Rose

    Not sure ALL extra-curricular activities will start up on Monday.....don't think that is possible on the first day of no WTR!
  2. B

    Bill Bruhm

    The end of Work to Rule will be phased in over time. Things will not be back to normal on Monday.
    • D

      Dylan Cunningham

      Hi Bill, thanks for your feedback. I have altered the secondary headline to reflect this.
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