NEWS
10/25/2016 16:51 EDT | Updated 10/26/2017 01:12 EDT

N.S. teachers give union 'strong' strike mandate after rejecting proposed deal

HALIFAX — The president of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union says she's received a strong mandate from a strike vote among teachers across the province.

Liette Doucet says the 9,300 public school members and substitutes voted 96 per cent in favour of job action in a provincewide electronic vote on Tuesday.

Doucet says teachers are looking for a "fair wage increase," more quality time with students, and for the government to provide funding that will improve working conditions.

Under the Teachers' Collective Bargaining Act, public school members, who include classroom teachers, specialists, administrators, speech language pathologists, school counsellors and school psychologists will be in a legal strike position on Dec. 3.

Doucet says the union executive will be meeting to determine next steps around potential job action, which she has said could include a regular strike, work-to-rule or rotating strikes.

She says the last time the union held a strike vote was in October 2002, adding there has never been a provincewide strike of teachers in Nova Scotia.

"Public school teachers have spoken loud and clear," Doucet said Tuesday in a release.

"We feel strongly about providing better education to Nova Scotia's students and are willing to take action to make meaningful change for the learning and teaching environment in this province," she said.

The teachers soundly rejecting a second tentative deal with the province earlier this month, voting down a proposed agreement on Oct. 4, after rejecting the first tentative agreement last November.

The Liberal government has said it has to hold the line on public sector wage agreements due to the province's deepening debt, and has said it has increased investment in education since taking office.

Education Minister Karen Casey called the vote "a disappointment for parents and students, and for government."

"This vote comes after reaching two tentative agreements — both recommended by the Nova Scotia Teachers' Union to its membership," Casey said Tuesday night in a statement.

The province has passed Bill 148, which would freeze public sector wage salaries for the first two years, provide a one per cent increase in the third year, a 1.5 per cent increase at the start of the fourth year and a 0.5 per cent increase on the final day of the four year.

The bill has yet to be proclaimed, but union leaders have described it as being like "a gun to the head" when it comes to negotiations.