Community college staff vote to end relationship with NSTU

Two-year wait greets some community college applicants

Faculty and professional support staff at the Nova Scotia Community College have voted in favour of ending their affiliation with the Nova Scotia Teachers Union to form their own union.

The vote earlier this month saw 570 out of 771 faculty vote in favour of the move, while 131 of 168 professional support staff did the same. The change required support of 50 per cent plus one.

Barb Gillis, president of the new NSCC Academic Union, said she was pleased with the outcome.

"I was so excited, elated actually," she said in a telephone interview.

"It gives us a strong mandate to move forward, to build the union that our members have asked for and I'm truly excited."

The NSTU has represented NSCC faculty and support staff in bargaining since 1996. The new union, which was formed in May, will be the second-largest post-secondary union in Nova Scotia.

Gillis, a full-time faculty member at the NSCC Burridge Campus in Yarmouth, N.S., said the move gives more control to the membership. The NSTU focus on education didn't fully capture the experiences and realities of people working at NSCC, she said.

"The feedback from members was not always included. When we have all these professionals who have knowledge and experience in industry, we need to look at their needs and what they want from their work environment. And those members drove this creation of a new union, so they're going to have complete control over the direction of this union."

'A union that is focused on us'

The teachers union has been fully engaged in labour and policy disputes with the provincial government over the last two years. That's prompted concerns from some NSCC employees that their issues have become an afterthought at the NSTU.

Gillis said this initiative was simply about doing what was best for NSCC employees.

"Our biggest issue was we needed a staff officer to focus on us and their attention was always divided because of what was going on in the public school system. So I don't blame the NSTU for what happened, I just think we need a union that is focused on us and won't have their attention divided."

A news release said a five-person steering committee would oversee the formation of the new union and eventually people will be hired to handle day-to-day tasks. The contracts the NSCC faculty and support staff accepted on May 29 will carry through until 2020, at which time the new union will oversee bargaining.

NSTU responds

The NSTU issued a statement on the vote on Thursday evening.

"While we are obviously disappointed that community college faculty and professional support staff have chosen to leave the NSTU and form a separate association, we want to thank them for their role within our organization over the past two decades," reads the statement from president Liette Doucet.

"We wish them a smooth transition over the coming weeks and months, and hope we can continue to work with them on joint issues affecting both the public school and post-secondary education systems."