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.”