Nova Scotia

Memo from Karen Casey directs teachers to follow Education Act

As teachers prepare for work-to-rule job action Monday, the Education Department sent members of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union a memo on Thursday outlining expectations of their employment.

Provisions of Education Act "shall prevail" when there is a conflict with Teachers' Collective Bargaining Act

Education Minister Karen Casey has signed a memo directing the province's 9,300 teachers to follow the Education Act. (Andrew Vaughan/The Canadian Press)

As members of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union prepare for work-to-rule job action on Monday, the province's Education Department is reminding them of their job description.

The union has taken issue with the memo from Education Minister Karen Casey, arguing the ground rules they've laid down are within their rights and will keep students safe.

The 9,300 union members received the memo on Thursday noting the expectations for the job duties of teachers and principals during school hours, as outlined in the Education Act. It appears to address head-on some of the items the union has said won't happen during work-to-rule.

"You are directed to comply with these duties at all times while you are employed and being paid as a teacher in the public education system in Nova Scotia," the memo reads.

Under work-to-rule the union has said teachers will focus on classroom duties only and offer no extra services. The minister's memo points out "functions and duties" under the Education Act go beyond only teaching.

The memo says teachers must "keep accurate attendance records and report absent students to the principal as prescribed by the regulations." During work-to-rule, teachers have been directed by the union to take attendance on paper and give that to administrators. The memo also says they must "maintain appropriate order and discipline" in the school and classroom. The items, the union has said, would be scaled back during work-to-rule.

For principals, the memo reminds them they have "overall responsibility for the school, including teachers" and must ensure provincial and school board policies are followed.

It goes on to note that when there is a conflict between the Education Act and Teachers' Collective Bargaining Act, the Education Act "shall prevail."

Superintendent 'ultimately responsible,' union says

NSTU president Liette Doucet said the union gave one week's notice of job action so the Education Department could make arrangements for supervision and busing. 

"The superintendent is ultimately responsible for ensuring safety of students," she told reporters Thursday afternoon. 

She said lunch time supervision, extra help and teacher-run clubs are not in the contract, so will not be done. Teachers will arrive 20 minutes before classes start and leave 20 minutes after they end.

Principals will continue to arrive early but will avoid lunchtime patrols. They, however, have been instructed to remain available if there's danger or a health and safety issues, Doucet said. 

"Safety is our No. 1 priority for our students, and we don't believe that student safety is in jeopardy at all," she said. 

Doucet said she does not believe teachers could face any repercussions for follow work-to-rule instructions because the union will be in a legal strike position by Saturday.

The Education Department declined a CBC News request for comment on the memo.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Michael Gorman is a reporter in Nova Scotia whose coverage areas include Province House, rural communities, and health care. Contact him with story ideas at michael.gorman@cbc.ca

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