Looming strike deadline prompts conciliation efforts

Looming strike deadline prompts conciliation efforts

Looming strike deadline prompts conciliation efforts A last-ditch effort will be made to avoid a potential teachers strike in Nova Scotia, after both sides agreed to conciliation in the simmering contract dispute.

Education Minister Karen Casey and the Nova Scotia Teachers Union announced Thursday they would meet with a conciliator ahead of the Dec. 3 deadline for possible job action.

The move followed failed attempts in recent weeks to convene a conciliation board and to take the dispute to mediation.

``We are willing and ready (to talk) and have said that all along,'' said Casey.

The renewed attempt to reach out also follows comments made by Casey in early October when she said that negotiations had ``run their course.''

Casey said she made those comments after the union membership had twice rejected a contract offer that the union executive had recommended, and that the government has always been open to further discussions.

``That whole process had come to an impasse,'' she said. ``We need to get a resolution here and we need to protect the students in our classroom and this (conciliation) could be an opportunity for that to happen.''

Nova Scotia Teachers Union president Liette Doucet said she was surprised by the invitation to talk from a government that had shown little interest in the union's requests for more negotiations.

Doucet said for the conciliation to make a difference, ``everything'' would have to be on the table.

``We have to be able to go into a fair process ... we do not want conditions,'' Doucet said. ``We want to be able to talk about all of the issues.''

She said the conciliation process would not affect the union's impending job action, although no final decision has been made on what action it might take.

Doucet said the union's executive would meet Friday to discuss options and that information on next steps could be released early next week.

There was no word Thursday on when the sides would begin conciliation.

- The Canadian Press