N.S. teachers hold rally as union encourages members to vote ‘yes’ to strike mandate – Halifax | Globalnews.ca

Nova Scotia teachers took part in a rally to call for better work environments and highlight the challenges they face in the classrooms, ahead of a strike vote tomorrow.

The previous contract expired on Aug. 1, 2023, and the union says they and the Department of Education have been in “prolonged contract negotiations” since. A provincial conciliator was also brought in.

“None of us here want to be having a strike vote. What we want to be doing is going to a negotiating table with a government side that is ready to talk about teachers’ issues and kids issues, and putting teachers and kids first. And they are not hearing us,” Nova Scotia Teachers Union (NSTU) president Ryan Lutes, told the crowd of over 100 at the rally dubbed, Our Kids Can’t Wait, in Lower Sackville.

“Let’s be clear, none of us want to be here. We want to be in classrooms, and we want to be in schools where we’re supported to do your best teaching and our best teaching, where kids are supported to get the education that they need. And right now, that’s not happening.”

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The union, which represents about 10,000 educators, says it’s sending a “wake-up call” to the government and is encouraging members to vote yes to a strike mandate.

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According to NSTU, key issues include teacher shortages, violence in schools and deteriorating classroom conditions. A recent poll of members found 84 per cent of them have thought about leaving the profession.

In that survey, 42 per cent considered quitting specifically due to school violence and more than half felt they didn’t get enough support or respect from their employer.

Click to play video: 'NSTU talks potential strike mandate'

NSTU talks potential strike mandate

Andrew Ardley, a Grade 3 teacher at an Eastern Passage elementary school, describes the situation as “out of control for a number of years.”

“At any given day, the number of colleagues that I have are waking up with bruises, bite marks and blood on them. So violence is certainly an issue,” he told Global News at Wednesday’s rally. “I’ve gone so far as to actually call it assault, because that’s what you would call it in any other given workplace.”

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Ardley says the occupation has changed drastically in the past decade, and he doesn’t feel the province is prepared to listen or consider wage parity or workplace safety.

“Our teachers are going to show up and they’re going to ring those bells loud, and they’re going to show up with a strong ‘yes’ mandate to strike. If that’s what it takes, that’s what it takes,” he said.

The province’s NDP are supporting the teachers, and calling on Premier Tim Houston to “respect this vital workforce.”

“Teachers are under increasing pressure and need more support,” the NDP said in a news release. “The government, as their employer, must come to the table with a deal that addresses the working and learning conditions in classrooms across the province.”

Meanwhile, the province’s education minister, Becky Druhan, said she remains optimistic about the bargaining process. Bargaining will continue next week, she adds.

“I know I personally, if it were me, I would want to know the terms of any offer before I voted on a strike,” she said. “I really believe in the bargaining process and I respect the bargaining process. I’m really hopeful the ongoing dates will result in a negotiated agreement.”

According to the union, a potential strike would be significant, because they have only gone on strike once in its 125-year existence.

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— with a file from Global News’ Zack Power. 

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