NLTA readies for contract talks

President recently in B.C. to support three-day teacher strike

Published on April 9, 2012
NLTA president Lily Cole. — Telegram file photo

Although the situation at one end of the country may differ from that on the other, teachers in this province will be ready for whatever comes their way during negotiations between the Newfoundland and Labrador Teachers' Association (NLTA) and the provincial government.

NLTA president Lily Cole was in Victoria, B.C. last month to offer her support to a protest march March 6 that made its way to the legislature building.

About 5,000 teachers were present as part of a three-day strike in the province, held in reaction to a proposed bill that would affect the British Columbia Teachers' Federation's (BCTF) ability to negotiate with government.

"I thought it was important that we show solidarity with our teachers in B.C., basically because usually what happens across the country in one province sooner or later affects every province."

The contract between the NLTA and the province will expire at the end of August. Cole said both sides are arranging for a date to begin negotiations. She expects to start before the end of the current school year.

BCTF has been negotiating with the Liberal government in British Columbia for more than a year. The government wants to implement a net-zero mandate, said Cole, which would link cuts to other educational costs for every increase to a teacher's salary.

"Once this starts happening in one province, it can happen in any province, and usually it's depending on economic situations. B.C. right now is not doing economically very well, so they're saying across the board they're balancing their budgets."

In Newfoundland and Labrador, Cole said the government is dealing with a more favourable economic climate than in British Columbia and has done well to invest in education over the last number of years.

"We need all kinds of individuals to ensure that our province continues with population and prosperity, and education is the key to that, and this government has put enormous amounts of money into education. They've certainly put a lot of money into infrastructure, and that's a good thing.

"We do have a good working relationship with the Newfoundland and Labrador government. But having said that, we are ready to negotiate another collective agreement, and we've heard from the premier that this round may not be as good as other rounds because they want to also balance their budget, and they've given us various reasons for that." She said she expects some give-and-take in those negotiations and hopes they will prove positive for both sides.

"We do know that this government is certainly supporting education."

If for some reason the government and the NLTA are unable to see eye to eye in the collective bargaining process, Cole said she expects her teachers can count on the support of colleagues from across the country.

"When you support someone like that, it makes you feel like their cause is being noticed across the country and that there's other people who understand their plight."

She said teachers originally from Newfoundland and Labrador involved in last month's rally appreciated her presence.

"Anyone who was a Newfoundlander came up to me after the rally, and that was kind of a really humbling thing that they were just so honoured to have someone from Newfoundland there."

arobinson@thetelegram.com Twitter: TeleAndrew