WINDSOR -- The two biggest school boards in Windsor-Essex have made different decisions if the CUPE work-to-rule campaign escalates to a strike for support workers.
The Windsor-Essex Catholic District School Board says all elementary and secondary schools will close on Monday if the strike happens, but Greater Essex County District School Board schools will remain open.
On Wednesday, the Canadian Union of Public Employees provided notice that it will escalate their work-to-rule campaign to a full withdrawal of services on Oct. 7, if a negotiated settlement with the provincial government cannot be reached by that date.
Talks between the union and the province are set to resume at 4:30 p.m. on Friday. The two sides are far apart on issues of wages, benefits and job security.
The WECDSB employs 565 full-time and occasional CUPE support staff including educational assistants, designated early childhood educators, child and youth workers, psychotherapists and other para-professionals.
The Catholic board released a statement on Thursday saying “we have decided to close all of our elementary and secondary schools beginning Monday, October 7 should the members of CUPE follow through with their previously stated intention.”
This would mean that 20,000 students in those schools will not be able to attend. However, St. Michael’s Adult Campus on Detroit Street in Windsor will remain open.
“The health and safety of all of our students and staff remains the Board’s primary concern and was the predominant factor that was considered in making this decision,” said the statement from director of education Terry Lyons. “We would strongly suggest that parents and guardians begin looking at alternative arrangements for child care.”
Meanwhile, public board schools in Windsor-Essex will be open and student transportation will operate as usual on Monday for the nearly 37,000 students in the public school system.
“GECDSB teachers, administrators and education support staff will still be in schools on Monday and a plan will be in place to maintain student safety and building operations in the absence of the striking employees,” said spokesperson Scott Scantlebury.
The GECDSB suspended community use of schools as of Oct. 1 as the 550 CUPE members who work for the board include custodians at public schools.
The WECDSB says parents who have children enrolled in privately operated daycare services and before-and-after programs in the schools should consult with the providers of those programs to determine whether they will remain open should a strike occur.
The board says it is a dispute between CUPE and the province and it is “our sincere hope that both parties can return to the central negotiating table.”
"While we are not directly involved in the process, we will monitor the situation closely and hope that a resolution can be reached without CUPE members having to withdraw their services,” added Lyons.
The decision by the school boards means some parents are scrambling to change plans.
"I'm looking into alternative arrangements," said Chelsey Bokor. "Thankfully we have a very good support system but that's not a thing for working moms, single parents who are working in school."
At the Conseil scolaire catholique Providence, the board says It has "determined that student safety cannot be ensured during a CUPE strike" since it has about 700 employees represented by the union.
The French Catholic board says as of Monday, all schools will be closed for its 10,200 students, unless a provincial agreement is made.
However, the French public board says its schools will remain open Monday for its 500 students if there is a strike.
Meanwhile, all public and seperate schools in Chatham-Kent will be closed if there is a strike by 1,200 CUPE members who work for the two boards.
That means nearly 31,000 students in Chatham-Kent will not be in class next week.