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Labour in Nova Scotia has its work cut out

KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – Look at it whichever way you want, the decision by the NSTU not to strike was a retreat. Government gave up very little. The pent up anger of 83% of all teachers willing to engage in civil disobedience will remain untapped.

Photo Robert Devet

This is not to argue with the NSTU decision not to strike. I don’t know what lawyers told the executive, and I don’t know how ready the membership was to face an unfriendly public and an unfriendly press.

Despite a common press conference by unions with skin in the game, and despite all the talk about solidarity, the fight against Bill 72 was always going to be fought by the NSTU alone.

That should not have been the case. McNeil has hammered workers in this province ever since he gained power in 2013. Well established collective bargaining conventions and workers’ rights were taken away from home care workers, nurses, healthcare workers, provincial civil servants, and teachers. Our minimum wage is the lowest in Canada. Austerity is hurting everybody.

The need for solidarity and a common front is clear to see. Yet in response we have seen some isolated job action, remember the teachers strike, their work to rule, the Capital Health nurses walking out?  Other than that Labour’s push back mostly consists of some court challenges that will take years to conclude, and lots of rallies.

Earlier I wrote about the Ontario Days of Action, the rotating strikes in different cities as labour’s response to Mike Harris’ common sense revolution in the nineties. We need something like that here and now in Nova Scotia, I argued. And that takes work. And it takes thought and planning. And it takes cooperation.

In Ontario at the time unions didn’t just wait for their members to wake up to the new realities. Unions in Ontario actively went after their members, many of whom had voted for Harris, to convince them that a one-day walkout was the thing to do. And they pulled it off. It didn’t take care of Harris, but it was immensely helpful.  

That’s exactly what we need here in Nova Scotia.

I am not finger pointing at anybody or anyone union here, it’s a collective malaise. Maybe things are happening behind the scenes here in Nova Scotia. I am outside, looking in. But even after five years of McNeil, I don’t hear much talk about the need for collective action. Yet the rubber only hits the road when that conversation starts. So let’s talk.

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  1. Sadly this is %100 true. Time after time, this government has proven that it at war against organized labour in the service of anarchic and antidemocratic ideologues such as AIMS. By forcibly and illegally extracting a group of teachers from their union, with the express purpose of using those teachers as a club to beat what is left of the NSTU’s rights into dust, it has gone so far over the line that all the labour unions in Nova Scotia (along with their national organizations) would seem to have no choice but to wake up and start fighting back. If the government can do this, unions like mine (CUPE) and the Collective Agreements we cling to, are nothing.

  2. I asked why 9000 teachers didn’t file 9000 official grievances by themselves without listening to their Executive. The members of the Union do not know their rights and the Executive of the Union does not tell them that they can officially file and speak for themselves without the Union Executive and they all wanted to strike and the union folded. Every teacher can file a grievance with the government regarding Article 4 and 6 of the TPA. Article 4 is a violation of human rights and labour law not to mention other acts that protect workers. Article 6 is about intimidation and harassment – all these teachers are victims of harassment and intimidation and government is responsible and the Union Executive is complicit. The bogus law passed for personal and commercial gain by government for big business to line their pockets. The lawyers for the Union Executive have always supported government and they play both sides of the fence. Bill 72 segregates, silences and marginalizes Nova Scotia citizens. The decision not to strike by the Union Executive was not a retreat in my view. The lawyers for the Union protect the lawyers who created Bill 72. These lawyers should be identified. Lawyers are unconsciously biased because lawyers are not educators – they have never studied. The Union’s retreat was betrayal. It was wrong and 9000 souls are injured not to mention thousands of children who are already impoverished in this province of Nova Scotia. (One in five go to school hungry). I have listened all day and government is not listening and they could care less in my humble opinion.

  3. Honest talk is what is needed.

    The lawyers for the Union Executive failed the membership because they could have been at the law amendments committee arguing in Legalese why the status quo for the most part, should remain for a thousand different, intelligent and substantive reasons that were qualified and grounded in fact, evidence and common sense for the common good.

    The lawyers are litigators who speak Legalese but they for some reason they have more credibility than expert teachers on education. This stance boggles the mind if you really think about it. Lawyers have little knowledge about education.

    Why was Doucette the only spokesperson behind closed doors speaking to the Premier? What did the lawyers for government and the lawyers for the Union agree on? Why did the Union fold and advise 9000 teachers not to strike?

    The parents might have rallied but not with the gusto they did last year or early on in February. The teachers had a right to speak about government because they caused them harm and the adverse effects demoralized both them and their profession.

    Did government lawyers make a deal so the Union could launch an expensive charter challenge that only enriches the lawyers and takes years in the courts? Will the challenge cost the tax payers these legal fees?

    Will a court challenge come to the same conclusion we already know with respect to government’s unlawful and gross disregard for the citizens of this province? McNeil is in breach of his duty.

    Teachers should know this game is the “old boys club”. The boys are simply having fun behind closed doors like always.

    The press – the spin doctors could have and would have pit the parents against the teachers in a blink of an eye if the teachers had called the strike like they wanted to do.

    Rotating strikes could have been actioned and it would not have taken a lot of work – just passion to make a stand.

    A hundred other things could have been negotiated by the Union Executive/Lawyers and government – Doucette went to a meeting that was a done deal and gave up everything.

    I have to agree, it was a no win for teachers any way you look at it.

    9000 teachers have been silenced by their employers too.

    83 % of the union’s membership voted to strike. A strike wasn’t illegal – government was already in breach of trust and bad faith and dishonest practices.

    The union membership do not know the politics and who is running who – they do not deserve this mistreatment.

    I was as naive and uninformed 7 years ago but now everything is so incredibly transparent.

    1. Hi my name is Denis Cormier I’m a teacher. Paulette Raymond may I ask what is your occupation? You have interesting ideas!

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