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Nova Scotia strikes deal with teachers union, job action suspended

Teachers union, Nova Scotia strike deal

HALIFAX — The Nova Scotia Teachers Union says it will suspend its work-to-rule campaign beginning Monday after reaching a tentative agreement with the provincial government.

Neither side would discuss details of the deal announced Friday, which faces a Feb. 8 ratification vote.

Union president Liette Doucet said the deal was reached early Wednesday, and union executives met all day on Thursday and Friday to discuss it.

She said the union is recommending the tentative agreement be accepted by its 9,300 members. Teachers have twice rejected contract agreements recommended by the union executive, and voted overwhelmingly in favour of a strike.

"We believe that this tentative agreement is better than the last, however it will be up to the membership. They will have to look at what the team was able to achieve and they will ultimately make the decision," Doucet said in a phone interview Friday evening.

The deal will be presented to members at meetings around the province over the next two weeks.

"Both government and the union worked hard to come to this agreement. Now the members will have their opportunity to vote through ratification," Education Minister Karen Casey said in a statement Friday.

The teachers began a work-to-rule campaign on Dec. 5 that had a sweeping effect on school life across Nova Scotia, cancelling shows, trips and sports.

The union edict stipulated teachers should only report for work 20 minutes before class starts and leave 20 minutes after the school day ends.

The union said that campaign will be "phased out" beginning Monday.

"Something will likely come from the Department of Education to superintendents and school principals letting them know which of those initiatives will begin right away again and which may be phased in or come in again at a later date," said Doucet.

The two sides resumed conciliation talks Monday after Casey said negotiations reached an "impasse'' last week following several meetings with a conciliator.

The teachers' last contract expired on July 31, 2015.

Both sides had embarrassing moments during sometimes bitter negotiations over working conditions, money and other issues.

In early December, the government closed schools on two days' notice as it called an emergency session of the legislature to impose a contract settlement on teachers as they began work to rule. But the government quickly reversed itself, saying the union addressed its safety concerns amid disagreement over exactly what had been discussed.

Then, this month, Casey raised questions over teachers' professional development travel to Hawaii and elsewhere during the work-to-rule campaign. She asked whether a “double standard” was at play, and questioned why trips weren’t cancelled once work to rule began, noting sporting events, trips and other activities have been cancelled for students.

The union said teachers had been granted permission to travel to conferences, including 11 who went to an education conference in Hawaii, before their job action began. It pointed out that school boards told teachers they have the right to attend approved professional development and be reimbursed for it, and that wouldn’t change even if they fall “within a work-to-rule or a full strike.”

In a statement Friday, a pro-teacher group, Nova Scotia Parents for Teachers, said it continues to support the union's efforts.

"Whatever the outcome of the ratification vote, we will respect the decision," it said.

Aly Thomson, The Canadian Press