rabble blogs are the personal pages of some of Canada's most insightful progressive activists and commentators. All opinions belong to the writer; however, writers are expected to adhere to our guidelines. We welcome new bloggers -- contact us for details.

Nova Scotia faces a winter of labour discontent of its own making

Please chip in to support more articles like this. Support rabble.ca today for as little as $1 per month!

Photo: Chris Campbell/flickr

Want to expand rabble's Parliamentary Bureau? Support us on Patreon today! 

Keep Karl on Parl

Last week, Nova Scotia's 9,000 teachers decisively rejected a tentative contract with the provincial government. With their vote, the teachers instantly scuppered Stephen McNeil's carefully crafted strategy to bring public sector unions to heel before introducing a see-we-did-it balanced budget in advance of the next provincial election.

McNeil had begun strategically with the teachers, traditionally the least militant of the province's public sector unions. He coupled his deliberately insubstantial wage offer -- just three per cent over five years -- with the threat of what the teachers' union called "impending draconian legislation" if teachers turned it down.

The union leadership quickly caved, holding its nose and recommending the tentative deal. The very next day, the usually much more militant Nova Scotia Government and General Employees Union (NSGEU) read the writing on the blackboard, and announced it too would recommend a similar deal to its 7,600 members.

Then the teachers voted: 94 per cent of them, with 61 per cent of those casting ballots saying no way. Within hours, the NSGEU withdrew its own white flag, announcing it would put off its ratification vote and consult with its membership.

And that may be the end of Stephen McNeil's grand scheme.

What is intriguing -- and instructive -- about all of this is that most teachers who've spoken publicly since the vote say their personal tipping point wasn't the wage offer, but the government's bully-boy, take-it-or-take-this tactics.

Borrowing a now-tattered page from the Stephen Harper Playbook, Stephen McNeil had decided to make public sector workers the enemy. His new government's first piece of legislation ripped up even the strike-threat weapon. Last year, he tried -- ultimately unsuccessfully, but after sending a clear don't-mess-with-us message -- to hobble the province's most powerful and militant union, the NSGEU, by scattering many of its health workers among other unions.

The strategy, which was to culminate with this year's round of public sector non-bargaining in no-increases-until-at-least-after-the-next-election contracts -- is now in tatters. And the government is facing a winter of labour discontent, mostly of its own making.

The Stephen Harper Playbook seems to be playing less well these days.

Photo: Chris Campbell/flickr

Want to expand rabble's Parliamentary Bureau? Support us on Patreon today! 

Keep Karl on Parl

Thank you for reading this story…

More people are reading rabble.ca than ever and unlike many news organizations, we have never put up a paywall – at rabble we’ve always believed in making our reporting and analysis free to all, while striving to make it sustainable as well. Media isn’t free to produce. rabble’s total budget is likely less than what big corporate media spend on photocopying (we kid you not!) and we do not have any major foundation, sponsor or angel investor. Our main supporters are people and organizations -- like you. This is why we need your help. You are what keep us sustainable.

rabble.ca has staked its existence on you. We live or die on community support -- your support! We get hundreds of thousands of visitors and we believe in them. We believe in you. We believe people will put in what they can for the greater good. We call that sustainable.

So what is the easy answer for us? Depend on a community of visitors who care passionately about media that amplifies the voices of people struggling for change and justice. It really is that simple. When the people who visit rabble care enough to contribute a bit then it works for everyone.

And so we’re asking you if you could make a donation, right now, to help us carry forward on our mission. Make a donation today.

Comments

We welcome your comments! rabble.ca embraces a pro-human rights, pro-feminist, anti-racist, queer-positive, anti-imperialist and pro-labour stance, and encourages discussions which develop progressive thought. Our full comment policy can be found here. Learn more about Disqus on rabble.ca and your privacy here. Please keep in mind:

Do

  • Tell the truth and avoid rumours.
  • Add context and background.
  • Report typos and logical fallacies.
  • Be respectful.
  • Respect copyright - link to articles.
  • Stay focused. Bring in-depth commentary to our discussion forum, babble.

Don't

  • Use oppressive/offensive language.
  • Libel or defame.
  • Bully or troll.
  • Post spam.
  • Engage trolls. Flag suspect activity instead.