Class action

Christopher Gooding
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Students warn provincial government resolve dispute or face lawsuit

SPRINGHILL - With time slipping away toward a strike by the staff and faculty of Nova Scotia Community Colleges across the province, students of the Cumberland campus took charge of their fate and launched a media campaign announcing they will seek out legal action if the province doesn't agree to binding arbitration.
In between cellphone calls to media outlets and lawyers, Ruby Hunter and Charlene Woods met with fellow students, Springhill mayor Allen Dill and Gary Brown, representing federal Liberal candidate Jim Burrows, on Friday. Their goal, the human resource students say, is for the province and the Nova Scotia Teachers Union to avoid a strike and disruption of classes.
Otherwise, the province could be facing a class-action suit with 25,000 NSCC students listed as the plaintiffs.
"If they (the government) have a good reason to not pay the 2.9 per cent wage increase the union wants, then they should go into binding arbitration and let it be decided there," Woods said.
Tuition costs the average NSCC student $2,500, Hunter says. If a strike is going to interfere with the quality of their education, the Cumberland campus students are not only prepared to seek their money back, but have students enrolled in programs across the province refunded as well.
If successful, the Dexter government could be looking at reimbursing more than $62 million, compared to the $1.5 million more NSCC faculty and staff are seeking.
"We students have a voice. A strong voice," Hunter said. "There are 25,000 students. If we all paid just one dollar, I'm pretty sure we can afford a lawyer."
As of Friday, no lawyer had been retained by the NSCC students, but notice of the intended action was being circulated among NSCC student councils and student bodies.
With no resolution in sight, a strike date was set by the NSTU for Tuesday. The NSTU rallied at Province House on Thursday to support the NSCC faculty and support staff who have been without a contract since Aug. 31, of last year.
The faculty and staff have been in a legal position to strike since Sept. 25.
Negotiations between NSCC and the NSTU opened June 5, 2008, and after 10 months of negotiation, the NSTU filed for conciliation to resolve the remaining contract issue of pay. The NSTU is seeking a 2.9 per cent increase to salaries and improvements to medical coverage akin to what the province agreed to provide public school teachers last year, but the province maintains there is no extra funds while it grapples with its $592-million deficit.
Premier Darrell Dexter agreed to meet with the NSTU last week but refused to interfere with negotiations or embrace binding arbitration to settle the labour dispute.
Last week, faculty and staff at Cape Breton University voted in favour of a collective agreement put on the table by the province, offering wage increases of 2.9 per cent annually for the next four years. The offer was accepted without a conciliation process.

Organizations: Nova Scotia Community Colleges, Nova Scotia Teachers Union, Cumberland Province House Cape Breton University

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Recent comments

  • Jack
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    But we were warned by other provinces that had NDP before that things like this would happen. - you're kidding me, right.
    Pretty hard to put blame on the instructors either, they have a valid point. It's either nobody gets 2.9%, or everybody does. Why should I pay extra taxes to give them a 3% raise when I was forced to work four day weeks to save the company money during a recession. Give your head a shake.

  • HB
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    It makes you wonder if the NDP are taking such a hard line because they're over compensating, not wanting to appear as 'union friendly' as their historic perception has been. My guess is they will go to binging arbitration at the very last minute, at least I would hope so. I don't blame the students one bit for taking legal action. This should have been settled before school started. Pretty hard to put blame on the instructors either, they have a valid point. It's either nobody gets 2.9%, or everybody does.

  • just a minute
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    I feel badly for the students too. They don't deserve this at all. The money they have to pay for these courses and then the potential of loss of education because of a strike; the loss of money they can't afford to lose. This is just not right.

  • Jon
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    I feel sorry for the students, they can't afford to lose any time during the year as there is no time at the end of the school year because of placements. But we were warned by other provinces that had NDP before that things like this would happen. Maybe a strike was going to happen no matter who was in power but it does seem a bit unfair that Cape Breton University got the exact raise the NSCC instructors were looking for. Where did the money come from for that? It's all a political game and the students are caught in the middle. I hope for their sake that they don't lose to much time. When I went there it was one of the best experiences of my life and to lose any time hurts. I fully support the instructors they deserve the raise.

  • Vince
    February 24, 2010 - 23:45

    I agree with all the previous comments although I will not completely blame the NDP, I do think that they are into playing a weird game with the instructors, for the sake of the students, give them the raise that they deserve, they are just as important if not more important as the ones that received 2.9%
    from the previous government.
    That's the way I see it-for what it is worth..