The Ontario government announced Wednesday that it will provide up to $60 a day for child care during teacher strikes.
Education Minister Stephen Lecce said the compensation would only apply if the strike actions close schools or school-based child care centres.
The compensation would be applicable to parents of children up to age 12, or up to age 21 for children, and youth with special needs.
The $60 per day is for children under the age of six who are not yet enrolled in school but go to a child care centre at a school that is closed due to the strike.
Parents of children in junior kindergarten and senior kindergarten can get $40, and parents of children in Grades 1 up to and including Grade 7 can get $25.
For students with special needs in junior kindergarten up to and including Grade 12 can get $40.
The compensation would also be retroactive for “qualifying parents to cover costs already incurred due to labour disruptions that have occurred during the current 2019-20 labour negotiations.”
Lecce said that should all boards across the province go on strike on the same day, it would end up costing the province $48-million per day.
As of 5 p.m. on Wednesday, just under 12,000 applications for financial assistance had been made by parents, 11,524 for school-aged children and 467 for children in child care centres.
Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (ETFO) president Sam Hammond calls the announcement “absolutely insane” and says the millions should be put into helping children instead.
The measure comes as the union representing Ontario’s elementary teachers says it will hold a one-day strike at three school boards on Monday unless contract talks with the government progress.
ETFO says it’s given five days notice to the provincial government that workers in Toronto, York Region and Ottawa-Carleton boards will walk off the job.
It says the strike will go ahead unless government representatives “get serious” about reaching a deal by Friday.
Hammond also hinted that there will be a second one-day strike on Tuesday.
It’s the latest development in the ongoing dispute between the four major teachers’ unions and the Progressive Conservative government, which have been bargaining new collective agreements since the beginning of September.
ETFO has said the key issues include supports for students with special needs, addressing violence in schools and preserving full-day kindergarten.
Elementary teachers are also seeking higher wage increases than the government has offered.
ETFO appears to be following the example of the Ontario Secondary School Teachers’ Federation, which held its fifth rotating strike at schools in 16 boards on Wednesday.
OSSTF, which represents 60,000 teachers and education workers, began one-day walkouts on Dec. 4 with a job action that closed schools across the province.
It has followed up with weekly rotating strikes that have closed all secondary schools and some elementary schools at the affected boards. In addition to representing high school teachers, OSSTF represents education workers at some elementary schools.
Teachers were angered when the government announced that average high school class sizes would increase and four e-learning courses would be mandatory for graduation. The government has since scaled back those proposals, but OSSTF president Harvey Bischof has said it’s not enough.
Lecce has repeatedly said the key sticking point in talks is compensation, with the union demanding a roughly two per cent wage increase and the government offering one per cent.