London parents are making last-minute arrangements for children who will have to stay home from school starting Friday if education workers go on strike, but some say they support the workers’ right to fight for their needs.
Jeswin Jacob said he and his wife will have to reschedule their shifts or take a day off from their office jobs to support their five-year-old son with his online schooling.
“It’s difficult because we can’t just not go to work, right? Kids have to be home and we have to attend to them. For my son, it’s a requirement that we have to be with him.”
On Wednesday, the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), which represents 55,000 Ontario education workers — including early childhood educators, educational assistants and custodians — announced they will go on strike indefinitely starting Friday, unless a deal is reached.
This comes after multiple unsuccessful bargaining attempts between CUPE and the province on annual salary increases. Workers plan to walk off the job despite pending legislation from the province that would deem it illegal.
“It’s hard, but we also understand why there’s a strike happening, so we hope some measures can be taken from both sides that they come to an agreement and our kids can go back to school,” said Jacob.
‘The unknown more stressful than the strike’
Mom of two Tiffany Leroux has to work a night shift to ensure her kids, who are in Grades 1 and 6, are taken care of during their school day, she said.
“I think the unknown is more stressful than the actual strike. I do support them [education workers] because they’re fighting for what they deserve, but last minute is hard for us,” she said.
Although Nitika Beniwal is a stay-at-home mom, she worries that returning to online schooling will take a toll on her seven-year-old son’s social development, she said.
“We’ve been going through online schooling [during the pandemic] and it’s been difficult for our child, and it’s hard for him to cope up with it. Going to school is good for him,” she said.
Beniwal, who used to work as a teacher in her home country of India, said she knows the hard work that education workers have to do with a large group of kids. They’re an integral part of society and should be compensated fairly, she said.
“When I have to keep up with my two kids, it’s very difficult for me, so I know that handling 20 children at a time is not easy.”
Cassandra Green said she’s lucky that her kids’ grandma will watch them, but she empathizes with people who don’t have the same support, Green said.
“There’s a lot of parents out there that do have children with special needs and these workers support those children, so they’re really benefiting from this in the long run,” she said.