Solidarity Forever

Hiring 45 new elementary school teachers and capping class sizes for the youngest children at 25 – the lowest in a generation – brought the NDP praise from parents.  And good press.

One thing overlooked was the apparent change in attitude by the Nova Scotia Teachers’ Union. The union recently voted for a new president, Shelley Morse, and seems to have a new tone, at least so far.  Instead of the constant criticism and caustic commentary of former president Alexis Allen, Morse’s early tone suggests the NSTU is at long last behaving like a more modern union.

Ramona Jennex: I talked to parents, teachers, and met with the new teachers’ union president. Together we were able to identify where support was needed.

Shelley Moore: We are pleased that Minister Jennex has listened to teachers and parents about the concerns with class-size caps in the lower elementary grades.

It is a quantum leap for the NSTU.

Under Allen, the union was unwilling to even try to find anything resembling a reasonable dialogue with government.

  • When the Education Department announced high school students could receive a course credit by taking part in 4 H or cadets, Allen called the move “exclusionary and elitist.”
  • When the NDP announced they would be addressing poor math scores by adopting the country’s strongest curriculum – from Alberta – Allen automatically dismissed the move.
  • When Education Minister Ramona Jennex announced the NDP would examine teachers’ academic backgrounds to ensure they are teaching their strengths, Allen said she was not aware of a widespread mismatch, despite plenty of evidence to the contrary.

Under Alexis Allen, the NSTU acted neither strategically nor responsibly – to the detriment of NSTU members and students. 

We hope that has changed.

Teachers (and students) deserve cool-headed, thoughtful, and responsible leadership from the province’s teacher union leaders. The NSTU has a great opportunity to to show that it has matured, in advance of contract negotiations with the province. It should keep in mind that the NDP is the only party that supports collective bargaining. The opposition does not.

Wouldn’t they rather negotiate in good faith with their allies instead of going up against a government that would strip labour of hard-earned rights? Time will tell.