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5 universities taking Nova Scotia Teachers Union to court over work-to-rule

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5 universities taking Nova Scotia Teachers Union to court over work-to-rule
WATCH ABOVE: The Nova Scotia Teachers Union is once again making headlines, but this time it has nothing to do with contract negotiations. Global's Natasha Pace explains – Jan 30, 2017

Five Nova Scotia universities are taking the Nova Scotia Teachers Union (NSTU) to court over the work-to-rule directive that prohibits teachers from accepting and supervising student teacher practicums.

READ MORE: Nova Scotia teachers returning to work-to-rule Monday

Acadia, Cape Breton, Mount Saint Vincent, St. Francis Xavier and Sainte-Anne universities announced Monday they’d be taking legal action to the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia on the grounds that the directive violates Section 31 of the Education Act.

“Teachers will not accept or supervise student teachers, fill out assessments from external agencies unless required by law,” the directive reads.

According to the Education Act, “Section 31 requires teachers to admit student teachers to school classrooms, and, supervise and evaluate their required Teacher Practicum.”

READ MORE: Future Nova Scotia teachers see in-class practicums stalled indefinitely

MacKenzie said in a release that a separate motion was filed seeking an “emergency injunction to alleviate irreparable harm to students” so students can start their practicums as soon as possible.

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“The urgency of this situation required the matter be placed before the Supreme Court as the best way to stand up for students and protect their interests,” said St. Francis Xavier President Dr. Kent MacDonald.

READ MORE: Work-to-rule causing roadblocks as Nova Scotia teachers, government return to talks

The in-class practicums are a requirement by the Nova Scotia universities for students to complete their teaching degrees.

Nearly 600 students from the five universities are being affected by the job action, according to St. Francis Xavier spokesperson Cindy MacKenzie.

“For our students, they’re in danger of not getting the requirements for their teacher practicum,” said Association of Atlantic Universities executive director, Peter Halpin.

“Which is necessary for them to complete the requirements for their degree and their teacher certification, and the reputation of our universities is being done irreparable harm.”

NSTU, universities attempted to find solution

MacKenzie says the universities reached out to the NSTU in December to try to come to a solution to the directive, and sent correspondence on Dec. 22, Jan. 9 and 13 asking for a face-to-face or telephone meeting.

“The NSTU did not respond favourably to this reasonable request,” the release says.

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READ MORE: Nova Scotia teaching students may lose practicum opportunities with work-to-rule action

Union president Liette Doucet disputes this claim, saying the union has been in contact with the universities taking the legal action.

“I understand that the students are concerned, I understand that the universities are concerned. They contacted us to meet with us and we got back to them and asked for what they were doing by way of a contingency plan — however we have not heard back from them,” Doucet said.

She went on to say she doesn’t’ believe the work-to-rule directive is violating the Education Act and that the union has no legal obligation to allow student teachers in the classroom.

Doucet said the NSTU hasn’t received any paper work regarding the legal action.

The practicum requirements vary based on each school.

Student-teacher practicum requirements at five Nova Scotia universities. St. Francis Xavier University

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