Nothing strikes fear into the heart of parents like the words “school” and “strike.”
And on Wednesday, as news broke that non-teaching staff at Ontario’s schools could walk off the job as early as Monday, that worry became a reality.
The Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE) Ontario School Board Council of Unions gave five-day strike action notice in an address at Queen’s Park. Workers have already been on work-to-rule for three days.
Parents probably have a lot of questions. Here are the answers we know so far:
Will there definitely be a strike?
CUPE gave strike notice. They are required to give a five-day warning if they plan to walk off the job, CUPE noted in a news release. They added that they invited the province and the Council of Trustees’ Associations (CTA) to begin bargaining with the union “around the clock” to avoid a strike.
If there is a strike, when would it start?
Monday, Oct. 7.
Who would be striking?
Non-teaching staff. This includes librarians, custodians and tradespeople, administrative assistants, instructors, nutrition service workers, school safety monitors and social workers, education assistants (EAs), early childhood educators (ECEs). But, this could differ depending on the school board. CUPE represents different categories of workers at different school boards.
Will schools close?
That will depend on the individual school boards. Some schools could close if workers walk out on Monday, but others might not. For instance, CUPE doesn’t represent any workers at the Ottawa-Carleton District School Board.
School boards are making that assessment now with student safety as the focus, Shane Gonsalves, managing director of public affairs for the Ontario Public School Boards’ Association, told HuffPost Canada.
Why would schools close?
Non-teaching staff still have important roles at schools, and these can impact child safety. For instance, full-day kindergarten classes tend to rely heavily on ECEs. And custodians keep schools clean.
What can parents do if schools close?
Working parents will have to either find child care, or talk to their employers about taking time off or working from home if feasible.
Could teaching staff strike?
That’s still a possibility. Contracts for all school workers, including CUPE members and teachers, expired on Aug. 31. The unions are bargaining with the Ontario government and the province’s school boards. But so far, none of the unions representing teachers have voted to strike, according to CBC.
What do I tell my kids?
It’s important to set your own politics aside and think about it from the child’s perspective, parenting expert Alyson Schafer previously told HuffPost Canada.
“They love their teachers and they love their school and they have a tremendous sense of loyalty. So it’s very difficult for kids when they hear negative things about things that they love,” Schafer said.
Think of it as a teachable moment to help kids understand the different ways we can go about bringing change in a democracy, she suggested.
With files from Emma Paling.