In short, the Nova Scotia Teacher’s Union (NSTU) is being maltreated and ignored by the Government of Nova Scotia. The teachers have been without contract for almost 2 years, and their jobs have been changing since then. In October 2016, the government gave the teachers a tentative agreement. The teachers rejected the agreement because it didn’t confront the issues that they were wanting to solve: things like unsafe classrooms, lack of support for special needs students, increased workload, fair compensation and many other things. The teachers want better working conditions and learning environments for their students, where they can have the ability to further educate them with improved ability.
On October 25th, 2016, the NSTU members voted 96% in favor of having the option to strike. They began to negotiate with the provincial government just a month later. The NSTU believed that they were not “truly negotiating,” so they announced they were starting a province-wide strike action called “work to rule.”
“Work to rule” in this case means the teachers will prepare to teach and then teach – nothing more and nothing less, because this is technically what they are supposed to do. They’re taking this action to show how above and beyond they go and how being forced to do other tasks distracts them from teaching their students. As a current high school student, this means no sports, no extra curricular activities like band or any sort of club, no extra help, field trips, graduation ceremonies or dances or proms, concerts, fundraising, electronically placing grades (AKA using PowerSchool) or parent-teacher nights.
The very day of work to rule, the government closed public schools for students, even though teachers were forced to attend. They came ready to teach, with no students. Work to rule was suspended for four days in January (exam week for most high school students) and was implemented days later, thanks to Premier Stephen McNeil, who made comments about the tentative agreement they had made days prior that the NSTU had not negotiated with.
The day this article was written – February 17th, 2017 – is the last day that the NSTU can legally strike (not work to rule, to strike) because of the contract they are being forced into next Tuesday, February 21st. So naturally, thousands of protesters including teachers, students and supporters have surrounded the Province House in Halifax, from the early hours in the morning in the bitter cold. Also, hundreds of other teachers have gathered in their own communities to protest in front of their MLA’s offices.
Students haven’t been silent either. There was a student walk-out scheduled for December 2nd, 2016 and many students went to protest in front of their MLA’s offices in support of teachers. Many have attended rallies and continue to openly support the NSTU on social media. “#BenchedStudents” created by Emily Hammond, a Millwood High student, showcases a “benched” or sidelined club and explains why the club and the teacher running/supervising it is important.
— emily hammond (@_emhammond) December 3, 2016
The teachers want to get a contract that benefits them in a way that they can better educate their students. I have friends that are teachers, I have friends whose parents are teachers and I have, obviously, my past and present teachers. These dedicated educators have inspired, taught and cared about me more than this government ever has. I wouldn’t be writing for myself, let alone for a magazine without Ms. Cholock and Ms. Floyd. I wouldn’t be okay with speaking up for myself and others if it weren’t for Mme. Leger. I wouldn’t be the person I am today without my teachers. I’ve learned more than just the structured curriculum from my teachers. I’ve also learned to negotiate and not dictate.
For more information or to support the NSTU, visit here.