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Government changes to specialist services have not led to desired results

  • January 30, 2020
  • Published by NSTU1

On March 23, April 8 and 29, Nova Scotia government lawyers will be in court, trying to block the rights of school psychologists, speech language pathologists and social workers working for regional centres of education and CSAP who had their rights restored through an arbitration award on November 27, 2019.

In 2018, Government unilaterally took away union rights from these professionals entering the education system. Arbitrator Eric Slone ruled this action to be illegal and ordered that all union rights be restored. To this point, government has refused to comply.

Labour Relations Minister, Mark Furey

Here are some facts that have been collected from public and court documents related to this matter.

  • The NSTU believes a plan can be developed so that specialists could work during the summer months, which Government claims is at the heart of this issue.
  • Multiple times the NSTU has offered to work on a framework to provide specialist services during the summer months, and Government has rejected those offers.
  • The McNeil government’s only stated objective is the removal of these professionals from the NSTU bargaining unit.
  • In previous years, school psychologists and speech language pathologists belonging to the NSTU have provided services during the summer months; they did not have to be removed from the NSTU to do so.
  • Because the work of educational specialists is classroom focused, they are unable to exercise their full scope of practice outside of the regular instructional year (September to June).
  • Of the approximately 60 specialists that were removed from the NSTU, only about half (35) provided direct support to students in the summer of 2019.
  • In the Halifax Regional Centre for Education, of the eight non-unionized school psychologists, only three saw students in the summer of 2019. They completed a total of four assessments.
  • Specialists removed from the NSTU were encouraged by RCEs to use up vacation during the summer months, even though Government’s rationale for removing them from NSTU was so they could work during July and August.
  • There were a high number of missed specialist appointments and cancellations during the summer months, because working parents were unable to bring children to appointments or because families were on vacation.
  • Several specialists have left the public education system because of Government’s changes.
  • As a result, the amount of support provided to students during the school year, when it matters most, has actually declined.
  • Court documents show that specialists removed from NSTU now perform fewer hours of work during the day than they did when they were unionized.