Niagara Catholic Board sends out update on possible elementary teacher lock out

The Niagara Catholic District School Board has sent out an update to parents regarding the impending lock out of elementary teachers.

The information update was emailed out to parents at 2:30pm today.

The statement says while none of the issues between the union and board have to do with salaries, a sticking point is hiring practices.

The board says when the mediator ended a 24 hour marathon bargaining session earlier this week, they advised him that they were prepared to meet with the union any day starting March 9th, however the two sides are scheduled to sit down Wednesday March 15th.

The board says it is committed to negotiating a settlement that meets the needs of students and the needs of our teachers, but if it's not possible they will provide details on how schools will function under the teacher lock out through the School Connects system.

The board says it will lock out elementary teachers March 20th if a deal isn't reached.

The union has said that they continue to work towards a fair negotiated settlement and the lock-out notice shows a lack of respect for students and teachers.

The two sides have been in collective agreement negotiations since February of last year.

You can read the entire statement below:

Information Update for Parents and Guardians of Niagara Catholic Elementary Students

As you know, the Niagara Catholic District School Board [“NCDSB”] served notice to the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association Niagara Elementary Unit [“OECTA”] on March 3, 2017 that, if the parties were unable to conclude the terms of a new collective agreement by March 19, the NCDSB would lock out the permanent elementary teachers on March 20. When we informed you about this on March 3 we said we would provide you further information by March 9.

The lock-out was a unanimous decision of the Board of Trustees, made with regret after long and hard consideration of the issues and options. We believe the decision is in the best interests of our students and the quality of their Catholic education experience. It was made after more than twenty bargaining meetings with OECTA, involving three provincial mediators, and some six months of OECTA’s work-to-rule campaign.

On March 4, the day after the Board lock-out notice, OECTA wrote to elementary teachers directing them to answer questions from parents by saying: “The Association continues to work toward reaching a fair collective agreement.” Fair for whom? Certainly not for students who have been deprived for over six months of the full Catholic education experience they expect and deserve.

OECTA also told teachers that: “We are repeatedly asked the same question by the Board’s bargaining team.” That is certainly true. But this is because OECTA has repeatedly not answered questions put to them in the first place. It is important for parents and guardians to understand that all monetary items have already been negotiated centrally by the Province, so we are negotiating only non-monetary issues. One of these issues is how the Board may fill posted vacant positions. OECTA’s position remains that if more than one teacher applies to
fill a posted vacancy, the NCDSB must select a teacher from the five most senior applicants who apply, with limits on what qualifications we may consider. We believe we should be able to consider all qualified applicants who want to teach your child.

OECTA proposes that with some exceptions we may only consider minimum qualifications. We believe we should be able to consider all of the applicants’ teaching experience, desired qualifications and experiences that are reasonably related to the position. OECTA says no.

By way of example, even though the Ministry of Education certifies teachers of Special Education at different levels, OECTA proposes that we may only consider the minimum level of certification. The NCDSB also proposes that when we fill vacancies that we have regard to the needs of not just one school but of the system.

We do not want some of our schools to have mostly very experienced teachers while others have mostly less experienced teachers. We committed that in filling positions in this way we would not act arbitrarily or in bad faith, knowing that OECTA has the right to arbitrate if we depart from this standard. OECTA says no. We are one of the leading school boards in the province. The OECTA proposals would change how the NCDSB has been operating to achieve student success for years.

OECTA says that teachers have been in their classrooms delivering curriculum, evaluating students and reporting student progress to parents. We take issue with the extent to which some teachers have contributed to reporting student progress to parents, but the bigger issue is the work-to-rule campaign OECTA instituted at the beginning of the 2016-2017 school year and that has expanded and been in place ever since.

Teachers have been directed to deny students critical elements of a well-rounded Catholic educational program. Teachers have been instructed not to coach, participate in, convene or have any involvement in any extra-curricular activities; not to attend Math Circle; not to participate in any activities related to the Education Quality and Accountability Office (EQAO); not to participate in NCDSB or Ministry Professional Development; not to work on concerts and plays and musicals; not to participate in Speak Out, Science Fair, and Heritage Fair; not to attend the Liturgical Music Workshop; not to plan or participate in or attend various Spirit Assemblies, Assemblies with Guest Speakers or Performers; not to participate in trivia nights, the annual Bishop’s Gala, Kids Helping Kids, pizza days; not to participate in the NCDSB’s “Celebrating Junior Artists” and creating the Board’s Christmas Cards; not to attend the Director’s Inspiration Awards; not to attend Principal’s Staff Meetings; not to participate in Behaviour Management Systems meetings and Safe Management Training; not to participate in the Journey Retreat Program; not to hand out a school newsletter to the students; not to accept Faculty of Education co-op students; not to attend Grade 8 days at their Catholic high school; not to participate in the NCDSB’s Gap Closing in Literacy; not to complete the Grade 8 to 9 recommendations; and, not to record comments on the students’ report cards.

We are a leading school board in Ontario because we provide a wide-ranging comprehensive program that encourages the child to learn and grow with confidence, self-respect and dignity and with spiritual strength. We gave OECTA notice of a lock-out because there was no realistic prospect of a settlement at the bargaining table in view and that means that we can expect more months where children will continue to be deprived of very important activities which are central to their learning experience.

When the mediator ended a marathon bargaining session on March 7, we advised him that we were prepared to meet with OECTA on any day starting March 9. We are scheduled to meet again on March 15. We remain committed to negotiating a settlement that meets the needs of students and the needs of our teachers. If that is not possible, we will provide more detailed instructions for day-to-day matters at the schools after March 19 through our School Connects system directly to families.

We thank you for your continued support of Catholic education within the Niagara Catholic District School Board.
Issued: March 9, 2017