The Ontario government is offering free day care to healthcare and childcare workers so they can keep their jobs should CUPE school staff go on strike Monday.
Talks are scheduled throughout the weekend between the province and the Canadian Union of Public Employees’ school board negotiation unit, and they say they will notify parents by 5 p.m. Sunday if the 55,000 guardians, educators and educational assistants are quitting their jobs will.
“Until we can reach an agreement, we know this will be difficult for many parents if their children are learning at home,” a spokesman for Education Minister Stephen Lecce said on Friday.
“We also recognize that it is vitally important that health and licensed childcare workers are able to continue their work. That’s why our government will provide access to free childcare for primary school children from Monday for those workers who may not be able to support their child’s learning at home.
Childcare is offered to employees in hospitals, nursing homes and retirement homes, among other things.
Laura Walton, president of CUPE’s Ontario School Boards Union Council, said in a public message to parents on Friday: “While this government continues to underinvest in schools and ignore the needs of students and parents, we remain committed to improving services in improve our schools. ”
Walton said the union is fighting for more teaching assistants, early childhood educators and library staff, among other jobs.
“We’re not ready to be bought by a crackpot,” she said of the government’s latest offer.
“We will not turn our backs on the needs of parents when you have been so supportive of the whole fight.”
CUPE is holding rallies on Saturday as negotiators return to the table with the help of a mediator.
Should no agreement be reached, Caitlin Clark, Lecce’s communications director, said the government had also made changes to allow all families “to take advantage of a variety of different programs such as day camps and (recreational) programs or existing licensed childcare programs that still have places available.” and enable pre- and after-school programs to provide full-time care by “expediting license revision requests and relocation approvals to facilitate expansion of licensed programs.”
“We remain with all parents who just want to see their children learn in the classroom. We will remain at the table to make that happen,” Clark said.
The Department of Education will fund licensed childcare, day camps and recreational programs run by a community or an outside provider such as the YMCA, and has asked them to “create conditions that support student engagement in distance learning where possible.” Service system managers and program operators are encouraged to continue working with school board partners to ensure the collaboration and smooth operation of these programs.”
Schools have been told to remain open when they can and offer live online learning when that is not possible. Parents who can’t work from home to supervise them have raised concerns about how to accommodate the switch.
CUPE has rejected a government offer that included a 15.2 percent pay rise over four years and said it also wants to ensure additional staff in schools.
Earlier this month, its members held a two-day strike that ended after the Ford government agreed to repeal Bill 28, which preemptively banned labor measures and gave workers a four-year contract that took advantage of the “anyway” clause of the Charter of Rights. “
The move proved controversial in the broader labor movement, with union leaders from both the private and public sectors condemning the move.
Lecce said the government had hired 7,000 education workers since taking office in 2018.
“We have pledged to continue funding 1,800 additional education workers and 800 teachers who will support our children in our schools as part of our pre-union program,” Lecce said of the staffing increase for this school year alone.
In the controversial law, which has since been repealed, the imposed contract provided for wage increases of 2.5 percent annually for low earners and a 1.5 percent annual increase for those earning more than $43,000.
The Tories have since offered 3.6 percent annual pay rises across four years across the board, or $1 an hour per worker. With compound interest, that’s the equivalent of 15.2 percent at the end of the contract.
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