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'Literally no choice': Waterloo Catholic board set to close schools over CUPE strike
KITCHENER - With 55,000 education workers set to go on strike after contract negotiations with the province broke down, the local Catholic board is getting ready to close its doors.
The workers, which include early childhood educators, library technicians, teaching assistants and janitorial staff, could go on strike on Monday if a new contract is not finalized.
Education Minister Stephen Lecce say the ministry is waiting on the union to accept its next dates.
"We stand ready to do it literally today," he told press on Wednesday.
But local CUPE president Joanne Delaney-Fraser says that no dates for bargaining have been offered.
"That was untrue, to the best of my knowledge there were no dates set," she said.
As a result, the union gave its five-day strike notice, which could affect local Catholic schools. The union says the escalation is due to cuts to positions.
The Waterloo Catholic School Board says it's been a tough couple of days. It says it will close almost 50 schools next week until there's a new collective agreement.
With 1,100 employees off the job, John Shewchuk with the WCDSB says that student safety can't be guaranteed.
Shewchuk says that most of the board's staff represented by CUPE deals with the schools' most vulnerable students, such as very young ones or those with special needs. With such a large number set to strike, he maintains that the school would not be able to serve its students safely."
There is no way in the world that our students would be safe in that kind of environment, so there's literally no choice," he said.
A number of parents are worried about what they'll do in the event of the Catholic schoolboard's closure.
"It's obviously a huge inconvenience because parents have to work whether the kids have school or not. So I hope they can figure it out," said Leslie Shaw.
Other parents say they won't be able to go to school, and worry about getting a babysitter who may be in school themselves.
Both the public and Catholic school boards in Guelph-Wellington say schools will stay open in the event of a strike.