Nova Scotia

Taking teachers' union to court 'last resort' say Nova Scotia universities

University presidents overseeing Nova Scotia's three largest bachelor of education programs have posted open letters in response to criticism from teachers about the legal action launched against their union Monday.

Presidents of 3 universities issue public letters explaining decision to take legal action amid criticism

Acadia University is among five institutions that have launched legal action against the Nova Scotia Teachers Union, saying the ongoing contract dispute with the province threatens the future careers of bachelor of education students. (CBC)

Three university presidents are defending the choice to launch legal action against the Nova Scotia Teachers Union amid condemnation from former education students who now find themselves embroiled in a nasty contract dispute with the province.

The presidents of Mount Saint Vincent, St. Francis Xavier and Acadia universities describe legal action announced Monday as their "last resort" in almost identical letters posted on the schools' websites.

In all, five universities have filed legal papers against the teachers' union over work-to-rule, saying the ongoing job action is a threat to the careers of future teachers enrolled in university education programs. 

Since then, teachers have taken to social media to denounce their alma maters.

The presidents' letters acknowledge the anger and frustration by all sides in the dispute.

"The situation we find ourselves in is a very difficult one all around. Emotions are running high, stressors are significant — things are very charged," read the letters addressed to education students, who must meet practicum requirements.

"We want to make clear that we deeply respect all of our education graduates and Nova Scotia's teachers. We understand entirely Nova Scotia teachers' commitment to doing what's in the best interest of their students. And we hope that they'll understand that we hold the same commitment to you."

600 students affected

The legal action alleges the union is in violation of the Education Act by not accepting or supervising student teachers. Section 31 of the act requires teachers to admit student teachers into their classrooms, as well as supervise and "give them any assistance requested by the instructors."

The union maintains it is up to the universities to come up with a contingency plan, but the presidents say the universities have limited power. 

"While we are prepared to change our degree requirements to help these students, we have no authority to change the number of weeks required for teacher certification — in Nova Scotia, in other provinces and internationally," they said.

"We also appreciate that not all of our students are from Nova Scotia, nor do you all plan to work in Nova Scotia — some of you have employment options in other jurisdictions, which could also be in jeopardy."

As for B.Ed. students finding placements outside the public school system, the presidents say it's not a realistic solution.

"On the surface, private school and out-of-province placements sound like easy and obvious solutions. But they are not. Six-hundred education students across Nova Scotia are affected by this situation. There are not nearly enough local private school placements to accommodate this many students."