People holding flags and signs at a rallyJust weeks after a Toronto child care operator announced the planned closure of a centre, workers and parents are celebrating the reversal that will keep much needed Francophone child care spots open. This victory comes after a coordinated pushback campaign by workers and families to highlight the deep need for Francophone child care spaces and the unfair treatment of workers by Le Petit Chaperon Rouge.

These child care workers organized to join CUPE last summer to secure better wages in a chronically underfunded sector and the programming time needed to create play-based learning curriculums that children need to thrive. They were bargaining their first collective agreement when news of the closure and layoffs hit.

“These women were some of the loudest and bravest voices helping us chart a better future for ourselves and the communities we serve,” said Nadia Arbain, an early childhood educator and president of CUPE 5551 representing roughly 150 child care workers at eight Le Petit Chaperon Rouge locations across Toronto. “We are grateful for the outpouring of support from parents who attended rallies and signed petitions. Their energy made clear something that all child care workers know – that we make a real, meaningful difference for families every day.”

Management’s surprise announcement of the closure offered workers – some of whom have been at the centre for more than 15 years – less than two weeks to decide on severance offers. This short-sighted and poor treatment of workers has been mirrored by management’s approach to bargaining. This group has been trying to begin negotiations for six months but have so far not had a single day at the table.

“Workers unionize because they deserve a say in their lives and their workplaces. And when child care workers unionize, they create better environments for the children in their care. That’s why so many parents immediately raised their voice in defense of these workers,” said Fred Hahn, president of CUPE Ontario who joined CUPE 5551 at a rally on Monday. “Families across Ontario are struggling to find child care. That this operator would close spots and layoff dedicated, passionate staff amidst that crisis makes absolutely no sense. We fully expect this employer to stop the delay tactics and finally take a seat at the bargaining table to do right by workers and this community.”

Bargaining between CUPE 5551 and management from Le Petit Chaperon Rouge is set to begin on March 20.