Ontario Catholic teachers one step closer to potential job action

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RELATED: Thousands of public school elementary teachers will receive Bill 124 back pay, Global News has learned, after the union signed a tentative four-year agreement with the Ford government. Colin D'Mello reports – Nov 23, 2023

The union representing Catholic teachers in Ontario has announced it is asking for conciliation in its ongoing negotiations with the Ford government.

Conciliation is a step on the road to a potential strike and involves the appointment of a neutral third party by the Ministry of Labour to advance ongoing talks.

The Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association (OECTA) said it wanted to move to conciliation because the pace of negotiations was “extremely slow” almost 18 months into the process.

They said talks were moving forward with “a clear improvement in tone” at the bargaining table.

Catholic teachers voted in October 97 per cent in favour of giving their union a strike mandate. The vote doesn’t guarantee a strike will take place but brings the union closer to a potential walkout.

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“We stand with parents who want their children to stay in the classroom,” a spokesperson for Education Minister Stephen Lecce said. “While it is disappointing that OECTA has taken this next step towards a potential strike, we will work with the conciliator to reach a fair deal that provides stability for families.”

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OECTA is one of the two major Ontario teaching unions that hasn’t reached a deal with the province.

Both the secondary and elementary teaching unions have reached deals with the Ford government that revolve around binding arbitration. Most recently, the elementary teachers accepted a partly finalized deal, with issues they couldn’t agree heading to binding arbitration.

OECTA President Rene Jansen in De Wal said his members had been “beyond patient” as they worked for a new deal.

He said he hoped conciliation would be the step that brings a deal between the two sides and avoids a potential strike.

“We are hopeful that a conciliator will provide the necessary expertise and support, so that we can reach a fair, negotiated agreement that supports all Catholic teachers, and the students and families we serve.”

If talks fail, the union will deem the process to have ended with a “no-board” report. That would effectively trigger a countdown to a strike.

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Once the no-board notice has been released by the Ministry of Labour, the union would have to wait 17 full days before educators could legally walk off the job after giving notice of strike action.

The 17-day period allows school boards the chance to prepare for the strike and gives parents a window to plan out their child-care options.

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