N.S. teachers seek to avoid strike

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The union that represents Nova Scotia's public school teachers has asked the provincial government to appoint a conciliation board to help end a simmering labour dispute that could lead to a strike in early December.

Members of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union voted 96 per cent in favour of strike action on Oct. 25. The vote took place after union members rejected a tentative agreement on Oct. 4 _ the second in the last year.

``Teachers don't want to strike and our hope is to get back to the table,'' union president Liette Doucet said in a statement.

``Requesting a conciliation board is one of the options available that keeps teachers in the classroom.
Government has clearly stated they are not willing to go to arbitration for this dispute. I hope our strong mandate will persuade government to continue the discussion, so we can reach a collective agreement that is acceptable to teachers.''

Under the Teachers Collective Bargaining Act, the appointment of a conciliation board won't happen unless both the union and the government request such a move, the union said. If the government agrees, there can be no job action while the board is at work.

Labour Minister Kelly Regan said while she had received word from the union, she still hadn't heard from the Education Department regarding its next move.

Regan said under the process the government has until the end of the day on Nov. 1 to respond.

She said if a conciliation board is named it could push the Dec. 3 strike deadline back.

``It does push the timeline back, but we don't know how long,'' she said, adding that the board could ask for an extension before filing a report.

Regan said any decision by a conciliation board would not be binding.

Meanwhile, the Education Department distributed a letter to parents and guardians, saying a strike or other job action could come as early as Dec. 3.

``The government will continue to work with the (union) and is committed to addressing teacher working and student learning conditions,'' the letter says.

The department also confirmed that a working group comprising union members, school boards and the department, is expected to meet within the next two weeks.

``We understand that talk of any labour disruption can result in anxiety and concern for students and their families,'' the department said. ``Should a job action occur, every effort will be made to minimize disruptions to your child's education.''
  • The Canadian Press

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