Q21. What did the December 5, 2016, bill say?

It would have imposed a contract on teachers

A21. Normally every bill is posted on the legislature’s website shortly after it is introduced. But the bill the government was planning to introduce on December 5, 2016, was never introduced, so there is no official version that I can point to.

However, the NDP caucus released a copy of the bill that they said the government was planning to introduce. The government has not denied that the NDP document is accurate. This post is therefore based on the document released by the NDP.

The bill is short. Keep in mind that the “whereas” clauses are not legally part of the bill. If you ignore them, the bill is really, really short:

An Act Respecting a Teachers’ Professional Agreement

WHEREAS the members of the Nova Scotia Teachers’ Union have voted twice to reject tentative agreements reached between the Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development and the Union respecting a new professional agreement;

AND WHEREAS negotiations, conducted in good faith, between the Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development and the Union respecting a new professional agreement are now at an impasse;

AND WHEREAS the Union has given the Minister of Labour and Advanced Education a 48-hour notice of strike as provided under the Teachers’ Collective Bargaining Act;

AND WHEREAS it is of vital importance that the education of the students in public schools in Nova Scotia not be disrupted by a prolonged labour dispute between teachers and the Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development;

AND WHEREAS, in setting the terms of the professional agreement established by this Act and to remain in force until July 31, 2019, the Government of Nova Scotia has taken into account the representations made by the Union in the negotiations;

THEREFORE be it enacted by the Governor and Assembly as follows:

  1. This Act may be cited as the Teachers’ Professional Agreement (2016) Act.

  2. Words and expressions used in this Act have the same meaning as in the Teachers’ Collective Bargaining Act.

  3. The Teachers’ Provincial Agreement made on May 14, 2013, between the Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development and the Nova Scotia Teachers’ Union, as modified by the tentative agreement reached on September 2, 2016, between the Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development and the Union, is deemed to constitute a professional agreement entered into by the Minister of Education and Early Childhood Development as an employer and the Union as a bargaining agent

The effect of this bill is simple: It imposes a contract on teachers. The imposed contract is the deal reached with the NSTU bargaining committee on September 2, 2016. On October 4, 2016, 70% of teachers voted to reject that deal.

Once a contract is in place—even if it is imposed by legislation—any strike action by the teachers’ union would be illegal.

One last detail. You may be wondering how the NDP got their hands on a bill that was never introduced. Here’s my guess. The government usually gives the opposition parties a bill briefing. That briefing is usually held shortly before a bill is introduced. It’s likely the government held a briefing for the NDP, and then decided not to introduce the bill after all. It is very naughty of the NDP to share the bill in these circumstances.

In separate posts, I discuss whether Bill 75 is unconstitutional and whether a vote on Bill 75 is a confidence vote. I also discuss how Bill 75 relates to Bill 148.

Author: Graham Steele

A former MLA in Nova Scotia, currently Professor of Business Law in the Rowe School of Business at Dalhousie University

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