On Tuesday, Nov. 29 approximately 150 teachers from the Cumberland Local NSTU demonstrated outside the office of Cumberland North Terry Farrell.
Teachers from Amherst, Northport, Oxford, Parrsboro, Pugwash, River Hebert and Springhill assembled after a long day working. Although it was rather cold outside, such solidarity warmed my heart.
Prior to this, teachers via their democratic right rejected two tentative agreements as posited by the Liberal government.
Simply put, teachers were unhappy with the terms and said so. That's democracy at work. The premier, Stephen McNeil, and some of his closest ministers have been hostile in attitude and intemperate in tone in their reaction to the NSTU's decision.
The premier has shown an aversion to collective bargaining, and in his denunciations of the decisions as reached by the NSTU, he appears to be anti-union.
Teachers have been seeking a fair deal. McNeil has argued that the province simply cannot afford to pay the increases to teachers, notwithstanding that he has recently hired a secretary at an annual salary of $160,000.
The same provincial government that says we are so strapped for cash is a position to spend $500,000 on the installation of a wooden rudder for the Bluenose II.
The amount of cash being pumped into this project has been unprecedented. Yes, it is an important investment, but one has to query how rapid the government was in its decision to spend half a million dollars on a wooden rudder which experts had previously enunciated as necessary but the government had ignored.
Teachers are not unique, but they do exceptional feats with limited resources. Frequently, they are forced to supply classrooms paid from their pockets. Teachers commit huge resources in time and effort, which are omnipresent but overlooked. Data collection and input is a vast time-consuming task.
Increasingly, teachers are experiencing a large numbers of students with varying degrees of intellectual achievement. Students had, have and will always have behaviours, but the Canada of 2016 is a very different Canada of 2006 or even 2012 (the year I moved to Canada). Yes, classroom management is an integral part of the job, but teachers are neither babysitters nor bouncers. As a substitute teacher who has worked in a number of schools in Cumberland county, I have had a limited (different yet very real) experience of education and the classroom environment.
Expectations are at an all-time high but teacher morale is abysmally low. Things have to change - and change now.
Teachers are upset and frustrated with our education and the government, and the strident if not belligerent comments exclaimed by the premier has exacerbated an already tense atmosphere.
The decision to work to rule is a necessary measured step, one not casually taken by the NSTU.
Teachers are standing up for their rights, and it is vital and necessary that the public support them in this. Failing this, I suspect McNeil will pursue other unions with the same determination. The NSGEU has publicly pledged its support for the NSTU. Others groups need to follow suit.
This is obviously a one-sided post, which Premier McNeil and his acolytes will denounce this post as trite. This is understandable. However, seeing that the administration has a greater means of disseminating its message, I make no apologies for articulating an alternative view.
Today, teachers were marching for their students. Those students are our sons and daughters, brothers and sisters, cousins, nephews and nieces. Teachers are fighting for you. Will you fight for them?
Mark Foley, Amherst