N.S. premier promises to 'bring an end' to teachers dispute

Nova Scotia's premier is calling the legislature back in session Monday to "bring an end" to the ongoing contract dispute with the province's 9,300 public school teachers.

Premier Stephen McNeil issued a statement Saturday that said after three failed tentative agreements it is clear the province and the Nova Scotia Teachers Union have reached "an impasse."

"The strike action by the union has impacted students and their families for too long," said McNeil. "The union's actions and directives have caused harm to students – to their learning outcomes, university and college ambitions, and athletic aspirations. This is not acceptable and can no longer continue."

"I want to assure Nova Scotians that I have done considerable soul searching. It is clear: we must bring an end to this dispute so the lives of students and parents can return to normal."

The teachers rejected the latest tentative agreement on Thursday and their union speculated the Liberal government would attempt to impose a settlement through legislation.

"The latest deal contained fair wage increases and made investments in classrooms," said McNeil. "It showed we wanted to work with teachers to make our classrooms stronger."

Union president Liette Doucet said Friday that a work to rule campaign that was put on hold in January was to resume Monday, but it was not clear what form it would take.

The teachers have been without a contract since July 2015 and negotiations have dragged on for more than a year.

The teachers have been in a legal strike position since Dec. 5, after voting 96 per cent in favour of strike action.

Opposition parties react to McNeil's statement

Both the provincial NDP and Progressive Conservative parties quickly denounced the McNeil government's decision to recall the legislature.

"For over a year, teachers, parents, and students have called for investments in reducing class sizes and increasing supports for students in the classroom," NDP leader Gary Burril said in a statement. "Instead of listening to these concerns, Stephen McNeil has made it clear that he is willing to balance the budget at the cost of our children's education and the health and well-being of the people that teach them. "

"By imposing a contract on teachers, Stephen McNeil is saying once again that he can't and won't address the problems in our classrooms."

Progressive Conservative leader Jamie Baillie said recalling the legislature is an "admission of failure" by the McNeil government.

"The Premier has repeatedly ignored the need for classroom improvements," Baillie said in a statement. "Students, parents and teachers are fed up with his willful blindness to the needs of modern classrooms. They no longer trust Stephen McNeil to manage our children's futures."

Baillie said the "extreme action" of legislating a contract "will completely destroy the working relationship between teachers and this government."

With files from The Canadian Press