Teach­ers locked out

The Niagara Falls Review - - FRONT PAGE - ALI­SON LAN­G­LEY

The Ni­a­gara Catholic Dis­trict School Board locked out its ele­men­tary school teach­ers Mon­day af­ter a marathon ne­go­ti­at­ing ses­sion failed to reach an agree­ment be­tween the board and the On­tario English Catholic Teach­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion.

“We are dis­ap­pointed to find our­selves locked out,” said OECTA pres­i­dent Marie Balanowski.

“Es­pe­cially given the ne­go­ti­a­tions are on­go­ing and the board could have re­scinded the lock­out no­tice.”

Balanowski said the lock out was an “un­nec­es­sary dis­rup­tion for students and fam­i­lies.”

Par­ents re­ceived a recorded tele­phone mes­sage be­tween 7:30 a.m. and 8 a.m. Mon­day, in­form­ing them that Ni­a­gara Catholic’s 49 ele­men­tary schools were open but pro­gram­ming would be af­fected by the lock­out.

Par­ents drop­ping off their chil­dren were met by picket lines of teach­ers.

A Ni­a­gara Falls woman on Mon­day posted a video to Face­book that shows her ve­hi­cle be­ing blocked by sev­eral peo­ple at Loretto Catholic Ele­men­tary School af­ter she had dropped her son off at day­care.

Loretto shares a build­ing with Kate. S. Dur­dan Pub­lic School and a li­censed day­care. In the video, the woman get into a heated con­fronta­tion with a fe­male pro­tester.

Un­con­firmed re­ports sug­gest the woman is not a teacher at Loretto. One of the men stand­ing with her is hold­ing a Cana­dian Union of Pub­lic Em­ploy­ees flag.

By 3:30 p.m. Mon­day, the video had been shared more than 1,900 times.

“This isn’t just af­fect­ing the Catholic par­ents and students,” said the mother of a stu­dent at Kate S. Dur­dan.

“I re­spect their right to picket, but the pub­lic school students should not be im­peded from get­ting to school. We are a dif­fer­ent school board and are not cross­ing the picket lines.”

The at­mos­phere at St. John Bosco Catholic Ele­men­tary School in Port Col­borne was more subdued.

“The teach­ers were do­ing their part in bring­ing aware­ness to their side of the ne­go­ti­a­tions,” said Mi­randa Travis, whose daugh­ter at­tends St. John Bosco.

“The teach­ers were stand­ing in an in­for­mal line across the school prop­erty park­ing lot. Students were walk­ing past with no is­sue. The teach­ers were say­ing good morn­ing to their students.”

Al­though par­ents were un­able to get into the park­ing lot, Travis said there was “no anger or neg­a­tiv­ity com­ing from any of the teach­ers.”

“They were dis­play­ing them­selves in a pro­fes­sion­ally dig­ni­fied man­ner.”

There were some traf­fic de­lays re­ported at some schools. Ni­a­gara Re­gional Po­lice were called out to as­sist at a Grimsby school.

“As with all labour dis­putes, we mon­i­tor the sit­u­a­tion to en­sure that things re­main peace­ful,” said NRP Const. Phil Gavin.

“This morn­ing, as line pro­to­cols were be­ing es­tab­lished, our Grimsby of­fi­cers at­tended a lo­cal school to speak with the line/ picket cap­tain re­gard­ing main­tained move­ment of the traf­fic on the road­way.”

The pick­eters did not re­turn in the af­ter­noon.

A Ni­a­gara Falls res­i­dent, whose chil­dren at­tend St. Pa­trick Catholic Ele­men­tary School, opted to keep her chil­dren home Mon­day af­ter she re­ceived a phone call from the board.

“I was floored by the fact that it took them un­til al­most 8 a.m. to no­tify par­ents,” she said. “Keep in mind that some par­ents would al­ready be at work.

The woman, who did not want to be named, said she plans on keep­ing her chil­dren at home un­til a set­tle­ment is reached.

“I do think they should pro­vide us with some sort of school work ma­te­rial so the kids don’t fall too far be­hind.”

Mean­while, both sides, to­gether with a provin­cially-ap­pointed mediator, re­turned to the ne­go­ti­at­ing ta­ble Mon­day.

Mone­tary items, in­clud­ing salary, have pre­vi­ously been set­tled.

John Crocco, Ni­a­gara Catholic’s di­rec­tor of ed­u­ca­tion, said late Mon­day af­ter­noon ne­go­ti­a­tions are con­tin­u­ing as does the lock­out.

“Schools will be open to re­ceive students and ev­ery ef­fort will be made to en­sure students are in a safe en­vi­ron­ment, but pro­gram­ming will be sig­nif­i­cantly af­fected.”

He said any up­dates on labour ne­go­ti­a­tions will be posted on the board’s web­site.

Balanowski said the union, which rep­re­sents more than Ni­a­gara teach­ers, re­mains com­mit­ted to “ne­go­ti­at­ing a fair agree­ment as soon as pos­si­ble.”

The teach­ers have been work­ing with­out a col­lec­tive agree­ment since it ex­pired in Au­gust 2014.

Af­ter six months of work-torule sanc­tions, the board no­ti­fied the union ear­lier this month that teach­ers would be locked out as of March 20, if an agree­ment could not be reached.

The lock out af­fected about 14,700 ele­men­tary school students across the re­gion. High schools with the Catholic board are not im­pacted by the labour dis­rup­tion.

HARRY ROSETTANI/SPE­CIAL TO THE RE­VIEW

Teach­ers protest at Our Lady of Vic­tory Catholic Ele­men­tary School in Fort Erie, Mon­day.

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