Ontario government to provide free child care to front-line workers if CUPE workers strike

Click to play video: 'Ontario parents worried about another learning disruption as potential strike looms'
Ontario parents worried about another learning disruption as potential strike looms
WATCH: Parents react to possibility of another CUPE strike – Nov 18, 2022

The Ontario government says it will provide front-line health-care workers and staff in licensed child-care settings free access to child care for their children in elementary school if education workers move ahead with strike action on Monday.

On Wednesday, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) — which represents some 55,000 custodians, educational assistants, administrative staff in schools, librarians and bus drivers in Ontario — announced it had issued a five-day strike notice after talks once again broke down with the provincial government.

Laura Walton, the president of CUPE’s Ontario School Board Council of Unions, said if the two sides cannot come to a deal, CUPE members will enact a “full strike” beginning Monday.

On Thursday, the union said the two parties had agreed upon a 5 p.m. deadline on Sunday to reach a deal.

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Click to play video: 'CUPE files strike notice with province again'
CUPE files strike notice with province again

In a statement emailed to Global News on Friday, the Ministry of Education said it recognizes that “it is critical that health care and licenced child care workers can continue to do their jobs.”

“That’s why our government will provide these workers who may not be able to support their child’s learning at home with access to free care for elementary school children starting Monday, November 21, 2022, and for the duration of CUPE’s labour disruption in the 2022-2023 school year.”

The ministry said eligible health-care workers include — but are not limited to — doctors, nurses, personal support workers, other health-care providers and those who work in hospitals, long-term care homes, retirement homes and other congregate care settings.

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“Staff in licensed child care settings, both homes and centres, are also eligible,” the statement read.

Click to play video: 'How a 2nd CUPE strike could impact workers involved'
How a 2nd CUPE strike could impact workers involved

The note said the government will also ensure that licensed before and after school programs “can easily pivot to full-day programs” by “expediting licence revision requests and relocation approvals.”

CUPE said on Wednesday that it had reached a middle ground with the government on wages, but claims the government has refused to “invest in the services that students need and parents expect.”

Walton said, though, that the negotiating team was “dedicated to get this deal done.”

“But we’ve said all the way along, a deal would be done when there was a wage that met with what the workers needed and provided the services that students and families deserve.”

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In a memo on Thursday, the Ministry of Education directed school boards to “implement contingency plans.”

Several school boards in the Toronto area, including the Toronto District School Board and the Toronto Catholic District School Board, have already announced their schools would be closed to in-person learning on Monday should CUPE members withdraw services.

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