'Room for compromise' with teachers, N.S. premier says after meeting union head - InfoNews

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'Room for compromise' with teachers, N.S. premier says after meeting union head

Premier Stephen McNeil delivers the state-of-the-province speech at a business luncheon in Halifax on Wednesday, Feb. 7, 2018.McNeil met with the president of the province's teachers union today, agreeing to continue talks amid a showdown over proposed education reforms.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan
February 26, 2018 - 11:35 AM

HALIFAX - Nova Scotia's premier says there's "room for us to compromise" in his government's showdown with the province's teachers union over education reforms.

"We have certain objectives, they have certain objectives," Premier Stephen McNeil said after a meeting Monday with Liette Doucet, president of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union.

"We won't agree on everything but I believe there is definitely room for us to compromise, so I said we would meet again."

Doucet agreed the discussion was positive, in that both sides are willing to continue talking. There was no immediate word on when the next meeting would be.

"We want to make changes in the classroom and we want to make sure the changes are positive for our students, said Doucet. "We really need to work together to develop trust with the government and that's what we are looking to do."

In a vote last week, more than 80 per cent of teachers endorsed strike action to protest the province's decision to largely endorse reforms contained in a report by consultant Avis Glaze, including the removal of 1,000 principals, vice-principals and supervisors from the union.

The Glaze report also recommends eliminating the province's seven English-language school boards and creating a provincial college of educators to license and regulate the teaching profession.

Any strike would be illegal — and teachers could face fines of up to $1,000 a day.

McNeil said he met alone with Doucet and discussed point-by-point all of Glaze's 22 recommendations.

McNeil said the government intends to pass legislation this spring based on the Glaze report, but it wouldn't be introducing a bill when the house reconvenes Tuesday. The premier said he doesn't know when a bill might come.

Doucet wouldn't say whether teachers would strike if the legislation includes the removal of school administrators from the union.

"We have to wait and see what the legislation says," said Doucet.

McNeil said his discussion with Doucet also touched on an upcoming report on classroom inclusion.

Classroom composition, and inclusion of students with special needs, was a major issue that was seldom discussed publicly during a 16-month contract dispute that saw teachers walk off the job for a day and stage a protest outside the provincial legislature one year ago.

The Liberals eventually passed legislation which imposed a contract and also ended a work-to-rule job action.

McNeil said the report would be an opportunity to signal to teachers that the government is serious about providing classroom support.

"That's the report (inclusion) that is important to me," he said. "Our budget will reflect a commitment to this report even though we haven't seen the final product."

Monday's talks followed a meeting Friday between Doucet and Education Minister Zach Churchill.

News from © The Canadian Press, 2018
The Canadian Press

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