Annual Council Primer

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Observers Welcome at Annual Council

Annual Council has changed a lot over the years, but it remains the governing body of the NSTU. Delegates gather for healthy debate and make decisions about issues that matter to NSTU members.

For me, the Council Workbook feels like getting the Christmas Wishbook —something I look forward to every year. I’m always excited to read through and find out what options have been put forward by NSTU members from across the province. I make notes, mark things I really want, and jot questions where I need more information. I note arguments that will help me get up to speak at the microphone in order to convince my colleagues that these resolutions should move forward (or be amended, referred, etc.).

I recall being completely overwhelmed at my first Annual Council. I regularly attended Local union meetings and was an active member of our Social Committee. Folks suggested I put forward my name as a delegate to Annual Council. Frankly, I was a little surprised to win. I really had no what to expect having never attended or had opportunity to observe.  Thankfully a good friend was in the same boat and together, with the support of more experienced delegates, we navigated our way through all the resolutions and voting process.

So, I’m going to suggest that any NSTU members near Annual Council (held in Halifax) this weekend take some time to attend as observers. This comes with no responsibility to have studied the Council Workbook in advance and no voting privileges. However, it does allow members to observe first hand how decisions are made that will direct NSTU policy and operations in the future.

As often happens, I am finding it hard to locate the procedures about how to attend as an observer. Some Locals elect observers, but it is not necessary to be elected to attend as long as one is an active member (dues paying) of the NSTU. I do know where you will be seated as an observer–check out the seating plan!

IMG_4183My best advice at the moment is to check out the agenda (see images below) and make plans to be nearby at times that are of interest to you. I believe one just needs to check in with someone to verify that one is a member of NSTU. If/when I find out more, I will add to this post.

NSTU Annual Council 2018

Date: May 4 – 6, 2018

Location: Nova Centre Market St, Halifax, NS B3J 2C4 Ballroom Level B1 & B2

Schedule:

Friday, May 4th, 7:30 PM – 9:30 PM

Saturday, May 5th, 8:30 AM – 12:15PM

Saturday, May 5th, 2:00PM – 5:00PM (Presidential Candidates Forum @ 2:00pm)

Saturday, May 5th, 7:00 PM – 8:30 PM

Sunday, May 6th, 9:00 AM – 11:30 AM

IMG_4179IMG_4180IMG_4181IMG_4182

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Percentage of Voice: Disparity in Voting

Why do many NSTU members feel like our voices are not being heard? I believe the differing processes for determining representation at Annual Council and Provincial Executive (PE) have become a root cause of the chasm that seems to exist between member voices and binding decisions made by our elected representatives. This is not intended to lay blame, but rather to illuminate how we may be able to consider changes going forward in order to ensure a stronger correlation between decisions by whole membership and decisions by PE.

At the outset I must be clear that I believe all voices are important; both rural and special interest voices need to be protected. That said some adjustments could be made so that PE better reflects NSTU membership (e.g. changing the number of PE members or weighting votes differently). The message given at a brief training session is that PE members represent all NSTU members; that all interests must be considered in each decision. Overall, there needs to continue to be a willingness to listen and work to serve all voices.

Annual Council

Annual Council is the supreme governing body of the NSTU. Delegate numbers are based on a formula using the recorded membership of a Local (NSTU Guidebook p.11). There is a minimum of 3 voting delegates per Local, regardless of membership. Additional delegates to Council, representing more special interests, are outlined in the NSTU Guidebook. To me, this system seems, more or less, to accurately reflect membership voice. Also, though Council can be called to meet more often, it is typically a one-weekend meeting per year and so delegates have a somewhat short-term commitment.

NSTU Guidebook: https://www.nstu.ca/data/guidebook/Guidebook%202017%20web.pdf

Provincial Executive (Committee of Annual Council)

Provincial Executive is a committee of Council, and functions in the name of Council between sessions (definition can be found on page 13 of the NSTU Guidebook). Terms of PE members are, by necessity, two years at a time, elections alternating so there are always some more experienced members on the committee. PE allocations in the beginning were determined along geographical/political lines. The province’s population may have been more balanced between rural and urban when the committee was first established. There has been a significant population shift in recent years, however, not much has changed in the organization of the NSTU. In addition, there are now Locals that span the entire province due to a reorganization of school boards, etc. (circa 1990s).

Changes to PE numbers in recent years seem more reactive than proactive. For example, APSEA members were once members of Halifax City Local. It was determined they would be better served by having their own local, given that they have a different collective agreement and the nature of work varies from general public school membership (forming a Local is on p. 10 of NSTU Guidebook). Halifax City had 2 PE members while APSEA was included in the Local. When APSEA formed it’s own Local it gained a PE member (not automatically, but through discussion and a vote at Provincial level). Though the number of members remained the same, the number of PE seats increased. Members from APSEA definitely deserve a voice at the Table; the difficulty seems to be when a member is added it has often been done without taking into account other numbers at the Table.

The Quality of Numbers

Over time, through NSTU Structure Review and more recently the Governance & Policy Committee, suggestions were made to alter the composition of PE. Though various committees of NSTU members, along with NSTU staff, have given this serious study and consideration, there has not been enough of an appetite, as of yet, to make meaningful changes. I believe more work needs to be done. The Provincial Executive determines NSTU direction between Annual Councils, however, there is a disparity in how votes are allocated.

Though this piece is based on numbers, I believe in quality over quantity. I apologize if there are errors in my numerical calculations or reasoning. However, I see a glaring disconnect between NSTU decisions at the Provincial Executive Table compared to provincial votes by universal suffrage, like our recent contract and strike votes, and so I looked to numbers to help me develop an understanding of how that may have happened. I requested a recent tally of our membership by local and then calculated some percentages. I will include my calculations for your consideration.

ADGillisNSTUmembership.xlsx

  • Note: Provincial President, elected by vote of whole membership, and 1st VP, elected by delegates at Annual Council, may cast votes in addition to those counted in schedule.

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What is the role of NSTU Provincial Executive?

At a recent meeting of my local I was asked to summarize what role Provincial Executive (PE) plays in the NSTU. So, I decided to start writing. Some of this is research based and some comes from my experience as a PE member (2009-2013).

Structure of NSTU

https://www.nstu.ca/the-nstu/structure/nstu-structure/

Provincial Executive (PE) conducts the business of the union between Annual Councils (note: Council can be called more often than once per year, but this rarely happens). PE works with Provincial Committees, Professional Associations, and Locals (also Regional Representative Councils where several Locals meet together).

Who sits at Provincial Executive Table?

There are 23 Locals represented at the Provincial Executive table via 22 PE members. The President is elected provincially by universal suffrage and is an additional vote (except when chairing a meeting, I think). The 1st Vice President is elected at Annual Council (approximately 260 delegates). So, the total number of votes at PE table may be 24.

https://www.nstu.ca/the-nstu/structure/locals/

Is PE a Full-Time NSTU job?

All members of Provincial Executive (excluding Provincial President) work for NSTU in a volunteer capacity, continuing to fulfill requirements of full time jobs within schools or colleges. There is a small honorarium and meeting expenses are covered. Substitute teachers are hired to cover classes when available/appropriate. PE members are responsible for liaising with provincial committees in addition to regular meeting responsibilities. Here is a list of PE meeting dates for 2016-2018 (https://www.nstu.ca/the-nstu/structure/provincial-executive/meeting-dates/). If you follow the link and you have an NSTU account/membership you can access the minutes, etc.—though my login information is not working this morning. This is a core list of meetings, but meetings can be added as the need arises. PE has also had conference call meetings if it is not able to schedule in person meetings.

I plan to keep writing—I usually wait until I finish something before publishing, but then sometimes it doesn’t see the light of day. So, I’ll just post as I go…my hope is to help inform new generations of NSTU members about how to find voice in our organization.

Increasing Member Engagement

Please, work with the NSTU at the Provincial Level

Deadline for applications is Friday, May 18, 2018 at 4:30 p.m.

The NSTU Standing Committees are an excellent way to engage with the organization on another level. In my experience, most committees meet about three times per year. Substitute coverage is provided and expenses are covered.

A description of the committees can be found here: http://www.nstu.ca/the-nstu/structure/provincial-executive/committees/standing-committees/

I enjoyed my participation on NSTU committees and have no complaints. Meeting and having engaging dialogue with members from across the province has enriched my experience. It has also allowed me to consider how I can expand my own professional development.

When I worked on the Curriculum Committeewe discussed a range of items related to curriculum in Nova Scotia. We also met with representatives from the Department of Education at the time and had a chance to give input to documents before publication.

I also had opportunity to work with Professional Development Committee. This was rewarding because we reviewed applications from members pursuing a wide variety of professional development and, after rubric scoring, provided grants to support their endeavors.

I’ve recently served on Sheonoroil(peace with honour) Board of Directorsand again granted monies to support projects at schools and sites around the province. http://www.nstu.ca/the-nstu/structure/provincial-executive/committees/sheonoroil-board-of-directors/

In short, participating in NSTU Committees is beneficial for one’s own professional development and allows one a voice in supporting other members.

Here is the application reminder: “The NSTU needs input from the widest-possible cross section of its members in order to make the most effective contribution to education. Members serve on most provincial standing committees for a maximum of two years,* so we are constantly in search of skilled and interested persons to make our committee structure operate successfully. Committee membership is open to Active and Active Reserve Members.

*NSTU Operational Procedures state: Appointment to a committee will be for one defined term of two years. In extraordinary circumstances, an extension of one year is permissible.

You may download the NSTU Standing/Other Committees application form from the NSTU website or apply online by going to the following link (you do not require an NSTU webmail account to apply online):

http://www.nstu.ca/the-nstu/structure/provincial-executive/committees/

The Nominating Committee will be accepting applications to Committees until 4:30 p.m. on Friday, May 18, 2018.