Par­ents scram­ble for child care in case strikes close schools


TORONTO — Par­ents in On­tario scram­bled Fri­day morn­ing to fig­ure out what to do with their kids should the prov­ince’s ed­u­ca­tion work­ers strike on Mon­day — a loom­ing ques­tion that wouldn’t be an­swered un­til the af­ter­noon at the ear­li­est.

Talks be­tween the prov­ince and the union that rep­re­sents cus­to­di­ans, cler­i­cal work­ers and early child­hood ed­u­ca­tors were set to re­sume to­wards the end of the day, with the work­ers plan­ning to walk off the job Mon­day if no deal is reached — po­ten­tially leav­ing thou­sands of par­ents in the lurch.

“I will have to skip my school to stay with my daugh­ter,” said Rox­ana Ichim of Mis­sis­sauga,a mother of two who is study­ing mar­ket­ing at Sheri­dan Col­lege.

“I see a lot of ac­tiv­ity cen­tres around us say­ing they are or­ga­niz­ing stuff for kids like camps, but I can­not af­ford to go to that,” said Ichim, who typ­i­cally re­lies on full-day day­care for her 22-month-old as well as be­fore­and af­ter-school care for her kinder­garten-aged daugh­ter.

Ichim added she was sym­pa­thetic to the ed­u­ca­tion work­ers’ plight, not­ing she and her daugh­ter rely on the work they do.

Her daugh­ter’s school board is one of at least two dozen that have said they will have to close if the labour dis­rup­tion goes ahead, cit­ing con­cerns for stu­dent safety with­out those work­ers on site.

Some school-based day­cares have said they’ll op­er­ate as if it’s a pro­fes­sional ac­tiv­ity (PA) day, charg­ing par­ents ex­tra for the ad­di­tional hours of care.

Mean­while, the City of Toronto said city-run pro­grams in schools — such as re­cre­ation pro­grams, pool ac­tiv­i­ties and af­ter-school re­cre­ation care — would be can­celled should a strike go ahead.

Such mea­sures have posed prob­lems for pri­vately op­er­ated child-care providers.

“Par­ents have asked me if I know any babysit­ters or if I have any ex­tra staff who would be will­ing to help out,” said El­lana Katzberg, who owns Play­care Early Learn­ing Cen­tre in Vaughan. “It’s been quite a stress­ful sit­u­a­tion for ev­ery­body.”

CUPE’s On­tario School Board Coun­cil of Unions, which rep­re­sents the 55,000 work­ers, re­it­er­ated that if no deal can be reached over the week­end, the cur­rent work-to-rule cam­paign will “es­ca­late to full strike on Mon­day.”

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