Possible school strike

SUDBURY – Negotiations began on October 4 to try to avert a strike by 55 thousand education workers across the province.

The strike would include custodians, and in some boards, clerical staff and educational assistants.

In the North, some boards say schools will be open as normal on Monday, while others say their doors will be closed if there's a strike.

"I'm really nervous, cause as a mother myself, like I work and I'm in school so if she ends up being taken out of school, it affects my schooling… I'm really nervous that I'm not going to have the accommodations to watch her," said Katrina Punkari, mother of one.

It's a similar story across the province.

All four school boards in Sudbury are planning to be open next week, but others across the north plan to close.

The Near North District School Board, for example, says it cannot guarantee their learning environment will remain safe and clean.

"Since 2012, we actually make less now than we did then, due to rate of inflation. I'm not going to say we're money hungry and it's about wages, but we're having a hard time to staff our buildings because the wages just aren't there," said Nick Beattie, CUPE Local President 895.

Beattie himself is a custodial worker at the Rainbow District School Board. He says they'll only strike as a last resort.

"My members on average make $38 thousand. They don't want to strike… they have families to support," said Beattie.

Rainbow officials declined to comment.

The Elementary Teachers' Union says their members will report to work but are also being encouraged to join CUPE before or after school.

"ETFO members are very diligent and if they do not want any concerns because of the walkout from CUPE, they will address them and react to them accordingly," said Barb Blasutti, Rainbow Teachers' ETFO Local President.

For now, most parents say they have been left in 'wait and see' mode.

"It's just hoping that they come to a settlement and I haven't come up with a Plan B yet if there is no school," said Olivia Knapp, mother of three.

"You don't really get an answer from them, exactly what's going on, and that makes it even harder because it makes it harder to plan," said Punkari.

Contracts for public school teachers and education workers expired August 31.

The Elementary Teachers Federation is now conducting local strike cotes across the province to determine its next steps at the central bargaining table.