News / Canada

Niagara Catholic elementary teachers locked out amid lengthy bargaining

WELLAND, Ont. — The Niagara Catholic District School Board has locked out elementary school teachers amid bargaining that began more than a year ago.

The board gave notice March 3 that teachers would be locked out starting today if no deal had been reached.

All central education unions — including the Ontario English Catholic Teachers' Association — have reached agreements with the provincial government to extend their current contracts until August 2019, past the next election.

The most recent round of bargaining was the first in a new system in which central deals are negotiated with the government then local deals are negotiated with the individual school boards.

Only three local agreements are still outstanding out of a total of 471, including the Niagara Catholic elementary teachers.

Education Minister Mitzie Hunter urged both sides to consider using binding arbitration to solve the dispute.

The teachers began a work-to-rule campaign Sept. 1, 2016, which the board says is adversely affecting students and their families.

"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," the board said in a note to parents earlier this month.

"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 20 bargaining meetings with OECTA, involving three provincial mediators, and some six months of OECTA's work-to-rule campaign."

The board said schools will be open to students but noted that programing would be "significantly affected."

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