Imminent strike by education workers forces Ontario parents to arrange for child care

Across Ontario, parents are still waiting to hear whether or not they will send their children to school on Monday morning.

The final round of talks between the province and the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) is scheduled to wrap up at 5 p.m. Sunday.

If they don’t reach an agreement within that time, around 55,000 education workers will walk off the job the next day, forcing parents like Jessica Lyons to arrange relief childcare.

« I have a plan for Monday. I have a plan for Tuesday. But going beyond that, I mean, it’s getting more and more stressful to think about, » she told CBC Toronto.

Jessica Lyons, a mother of three elementary school students in Toronto’s west end, says it’s stressful arranging backup childcare options as a potential strike by education workers looms. (Jessica Lyons)

Last Wednesday, CUPE issued a five-day strike notice after talks with the province broke down. That notice came less than two weeks after the union staged a strike to protest now-repealed provincial legislation that would have forced them into a contract and made the workers’ strike illegal.

Since then, CUPE says the two sides have agreed to a raise of $1 an hour each year, or about 3.5% per year, but the union says it is still fighting for higher staffing levels. high for teacher’s aides, librarians, janitors, secretaries and early childhood. educators.

« We need to see money invested in the services that students and families need, that they need, » CUPE President Laura Walton told CBC. Subway morning Friday.

CUPE wants more staff for services

« Parents shouldn’t be given money and told, ‘Go find these services,' » she said. « These services can be provided … in our public schools. »

But the continued back and forth between CUPE and the province has parents, like Bronwen Alsop of the Ontario Families Coalition, feeling frustrated.

« I want school to be essential, » she told Radio-Canada. « It’s not something you can… turn on, turn off, and shut down just when it’s politically preferable for your union or for your political gain. That’s wrong. »

Bronwen Alsop wears goggles and a toque against a snowy backdrop.
Bronwen Alsop, a parent with the Ontario Families Coalition, says schools are essential and should remain open while CUPE and the province negotiate a deal for education workers. (Alexis Raymon/Radio-Canada)

In light of school closures during the pandemic and issues with remote learning, Alsop said she thinks students should stay in classrooms while the union and province negotiate.

In a statement released Friday, the Ontario Ministry of Education expressed disappointment that students could be expelled from the classroom so soon after returning to the bargaining table.

In addition, the province has agreed to provide free child care for primary-aged children of health care workers and licensed child care workers, in the event of a strike.

For most other students across the province, school boards plan to move to live virtual learning, in some cases as early as Monday.

But in many cases, remote learning is not a suitable substitute for in-person learning,” Lyons said.

She wants to see more permanent solutions.

“Public education needs to be strengthened, it needs more funding,” Lyons said.

« We’re on the same side as education workers because that’s what they see too. »


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