By Dave Flaherty/The Oshawa Express
With all four major Ontario teachers’ unions in legal strike positions, the Ford government is offering financial assistance to parents during work disruptions.
Minister of Education Stephen Lecce announced the government’s plans to offer parents up to $60 per day if strikes close schools or school-based child care centres.
Under the plan, eligible parents of children up to the age of 12 (Grade 7), or up to the age of 21 for children and youth with special needs attending a publicly funded school can qualify for assistance.
Parents of children ages infant to six years old who are not yet enrolled in school but attend a school-based care centre will receive $60 per day.
The government will also offer $40 per day to parents of students in junior and senior kindergarten, and students with special needs attending JK to Grade 12.
Parents of students between Grade 1 to Grade 7 will receive $25 per day.
The funding will be retroactive to qualifying parents to cover costs for days where labour actions have closed schools during the 2019-20 school year.
The province will also allowed licensed child care facilities, including before and after school programs, to extend hours, request temporary relocation, and increase the number of children they are licensed to care for during strikes.
Day camps will also be allowed to be open during strike days without it counting against the 13-week operating limit.
“Our aim has always been to reach a negotiated settlement that keeps kids in class, which we have done successfully with multiple labour partners to date,” Lecce said in a media statement. “We recognize the impact of union escalation on families is real, and unions expect hard-working families to bear the costs of their cyclical labour action. While unions impose hardship on families and students, our government is taking proactive steps to ensure students remain cared for — and families supported — in the event that unions decide to further escalate job action in their fight for enhanced compensation and other demands.”
Lecce’s announcement comes as tensions continue between the government and teachers’ unions.
Earlier today, the Elementary Teachers’ Federation of Ontario reaffirmed its plans to begin one day strikes in Toronto, York Region and Ottawa on Monday, Jan. 20 unless “government representatives get serious” about reaching a deal by Friday (Jan. 17).
“Other than cuts to education, [Lecce] has refused to give his negotiators a mandate to discuss the substantive issues we know are important for students and education workers,” said ETFO president Sam Hammond in a media release on Jan. 14. “Unless the government makes an immediate effort to engage in serious talks, we will have no option but to further escalate our strike action. As of today, Minister Lecce has established no dates for contract talks.”
Responding to the province’s plan to provide financial assistance, Hammond called it an attempt to “bribe parents.”
Meanwhile, the Ontario English Catholic Teachers’ Association is also threatening to begin one day walkouts next week on Tuesday, Jan. 21.
OETCA members already began “work-to-rule” this week.
Association des enseignantes et des enseignants franco-ontariens (AEFO), the union representing French-language teachers in Ontario, has announced plans to begin “work-to-rule” actions on Thursday.
While in a legal strike position, AEFO has no made any announcements regarding potential strikes.
Lastly, the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation (OSSTF) members are off the job in Ottawa today, essentially closing down all schools in the city.
This latest round of rotating one-day strikes continues labour action that began in November 2019.
Negotiations between the province and all four unions are scheduled to continue in the future.
The contracts for the unions expired on Aug. 31, 2019.
More details about the government’s plans can be found by visiting Ontario.ca/SupportForParents or by calling the Support for Parents Helpline at 888-444-3770