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Windsor day care workers to receive layoff notices

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62 pink slips issued next Tuesday
Schmidt, Doug
Publication Date: 
18 May 2010

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Sixty-two city employees will receive layoff notices next week after
council reaffirmed Monday its decision to close municipally operated
daycare centres.

The layoff, one of the biggest in the City of Windsor's history,
takes effect in September when all nine municipally operated child care
centres in the city and county are closed. Council reaffirmed the
controversial decision it had made in February during a 21/2 hour debate
Monday night.

"This is going to be extremely difficult," said Jean Fox,
president of CUPE Local 543 which represents the 118 employees directly
affected by the closure decision.

CAO Helga Reidel said the 62 layoff notices cover regular,
full-time early child care education workers. The rest are part-time and
temporary workers, a number of whom have already posted for existing
vacancies within the city bureaucracy, said Reidel.

Because of seniority rights under the CUPE collective agreement,
the layoff notices going out next week are expected to have a "cascading
effect" as senior employees bump more junior workers, with that
triggering more bumpings elsewhere, a process Mayor Eddie Francis said
could take from two to four years.

"The bumping process will be very difficult," said Reidel. The
shuffling around will require retraining to make former child care
workers eligible to fill in as other openings become available across
the city workforce.

"I would not call this situation chaotic," Reidel said.

She estimated that between 20 and 30 of those getting layoff
notices next week have enough seniority to be guaranteed employment with
the city.

The municipality has already hired two "employee relations
assistants" to help in the process, and Reidel said discussions are
underway with the school boards and private sector child care operators
to accommodate those city employees who wish to continue working with
children. One of the factors in city council's decision was the
province's decision to begin offering full-day JK and SK at schools
starting this fall.

Parents, city ECE workers and public child care advocates spoke
out again Monday night and were hoping to get council to reconsider, but
after hearing from officials for the private and non-profit daycare
sectors, and after receiving new information from administration,
councillors reconfirmed their earlier decision.

City clerk Valerie Critchley advised council that only a
reconsideration motion would suffice to change council's position taken
in February, requiring a motion by one of the councillors who had
earlier voted in favour and then a two-thirds vote. But councillor after
councillor spoke out in favour of the closures, and even Coun. Alan
Halberstadt joined in by now saying it was the appropriate decision.

Halberstadt, arguing the closures should be phased in, had
previously sided with councillors Percy Hatfield and Ken Lewenza Jr. in
voting against Windsor leaving the daycare business. But administration
said operating fewer centres would make the system even more expensive
to operate per child.

The vote in February passed 5-3 with Francis joining councillors
Dave Brister, Jo-Anne Gignac, Fulvio Valentinis and Drew Dilkens in
favour. As with the earlier debate, councillors Ron Jones and Bill Marra
declared conflicts of interest, while Caroline Postma, who also
refrained from the earlier discussion and vote, was at a conference and
absent Monday.
A staff report earlier this year claimed the city and county would save
about $1 million from the closures, and that the private sector could
pick up the slack and at half the cost per child care position.

Parent Shannon Porcellini, a separate school board trustee and
city council candidate in this year's election, questioned why the city
was willing to "spend my tax dollars" on building a factory for a solar
energy company but not on daycares which employ 118 people.

ECE worker Patti Strople said it was "entirely unacceptable" that
west enders were not represented at the council table in the debate
because both Jones and Postma declared conflicts.

Reidel reiterated that all the city-operated daycares will
continue until September. Ronna Warsh, the city's community development
and health commissioner, said staff are working with parents to help
find alternative accommodations and speaking with private operators to
extend operating hours and provide for the continuation of a successful
program that sees moms on social assistance get valuable child care
training and work experience.

"Soon, we're going to be a municipality without municipal
daycare," said Fox.

"These daycares are their only choices and when these daycares
close, they'll be without daycare," Lewenza predicts of parents who rely
on city-run facilities located along public transit routes in
lower-income areas. He gave the most spirited defence against the

When parent Scott Cipkar, representing the Public Child Care Task
Force, said it cost him $37 per day to place his child in the
city-operated Amherstburg daycare, Warsh advised council taxpayers make
up the difference to the actual cost of that placement which is more
than $100 a day. City treasurer Onorio Colucci said the city operations
cost an average of $88 per child per day while the private sector does
the same job for $33.

-reprinted from the Windsor Star