Liberals polling about banning strikes?

Stephen-McNeil-LiberalNova Scotia’s Liberals have a history of flashing left and turning right. An opinion poll run by Gandolf Group suggests a few paths Stephen McNeil would drive down if given the chance.

The following is a list of possible policies and initiatives that a provincial government could undertake in Nova Scotia. Please tell us whether you would strongly support, somewhat support, somewhat oppose or strongly oppose each.

  • Breaking Nova Scotia Power’s monopoly.
  • Banning healthcare strikes.
  • Accelerating development of Nova Scotia’s natural gas deposits for export.

The first potential Liberal policy seems to be more of a commercial than an energy policy. The latter policy option seems to be testing the waters for a fracking boom should the Liberals ever get elected to government. It is the middle option that Nova Scotians should be concerned about the most.

The last time the Liberals were in power saw the worst period of labour unrest in Nova Scotia’s recent history.

  • Angry nurses suggested wildcat strikes after the Liberal government refused to give the chief negotiator a mandate to resume talks.
  • Nova Scotia’s 60,000 public-sector workers said they’d walk off the job if the Liberal government didn’t restore collective bargaining.
  • Nova Scotia’s teachers agreed to support the general strike over a 3% rollback in wages and benefits by the Liberals and a three-year salary freeze.
  • All police forces in the province outside of Halifax signed on to take part in a wide-scale walkout against the Liberal government.

“Collective bargaining has not been abolished,” Liberal Human Resources Minister Eleanor Norrie said in the legislature at the time. “Collective bargaining has been suspended.”

Nurses, public sector workers, teachers and cops would do well to remember those savage days in Nova Scotia. The Liberals flash left, but turn right, causing quite the spectacular crash.


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.