On February 20th,2018, members of the Nova Scotia Teachers’ Union voted in unprecedented numbers in favour of strike action. This is a very decisive vote, especially given that teachers know that any strike action is illegal.
A strike vote and any subsequent strike action are clearly acts of mass civil disobedience against a government obviously determined to seize greater control of the administration of public education and engage in effectively rendering the teachers’ union powerless. The fact that teachers are willing to engage in this activity should be a clear warning to all Nova Scotians of the dangers of this government’s actions. The government has broken the trust of the group of professionals who are in charge of our children’s education. It is a message to all Nova Scotians that we need to wake up, do our homework and really inform ourselves as to what is happening in this province with our children’s education.
Nova Scotia Parents for Public Education (formerly Nova Scotia Parents for Teachers) supports the teachers and their campaign to resist the government’s agenda. We are a group dedicated to preserving and enhancing public education in Nova Scotia. Our group started more than a year ago in response to the government’s contract dispute with teachers, and today our group has more than 19,000 members.
This Liberal government, since it first came to power, has engaged in an aggressive campaign of curtailment of democracy and union busting. They have imposed “essential services” legislation, hobbling the strike weapon for over 40,000 public and para-public workers (nearly 10% of the working population of the province) in acute health care, long term health care institutions, care facilities, group homes, 911 operators, ambulance services, home support, child protection and people working in homes for seniors, youth at risk and the disabled. They have attempted to gerrymander the bargaining units in acute healthcare to change which unions represented different groups of workers. This government has, legislatively, allowed universities to bypass collective bargaining obligations by declaring financial exigency. They have removed teachers’ right to strike by imposing terms of a collective agreement. They have curtailed arbitrators’ powers to settle disputes with public and para- public workers.
Moreover, the government has announced its intention, among other things, to shut down all Anglophone elected school boards, remove principals from the teachers’ collective bargaining unit and foist a College of Educators on the teaching profession. Not one of these actions will make classroom conditions any better for students and teachers, and in fact will make them worse.
The illegality of a teachers’ strike is a technical matter, given that a collective agreement was imposed upon the teachers in February, 2017. Teachers never voted for that collective agreement nor were they even given the opportunity to vote on it. In fact, teachers voted against proposed collective bargaining settlements no less than three times last year, each by an increasing majority.
Nova Scotia Parents for Public Education will continue to support the teachers in their efforts to improve and build our education system to create positive and productive changes for the future for our education system that benefit our children.
In the words of Martin Luther King: “One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.”
Larry Haiven and Stacey Rudderham Nova Scotia Parents for Public Education