Work

EXCEL worker worries about possible teachers’ strike

Jacquie Cameron says a strike could be ‘financially devastating’ for her

Excel program office
EXCEL is a recreational program for children before and after school.   kaitlynn burns

A potential strike by teachers in Nova Scotia has one EXCEL program worker thinking of other ways to pay her bills.

Nearly 300 people work for EXCEL, a recreational program run by the Halifax Regional School Board. The program offers before and after school care for children in 62 elementary schools across the municipality.

Jacquie Cameron has worked for EXCEL for the last five years. The 53-year-old is a group leader at St. Stephen’s elementary school. Cameron says she still hasn’t received any information about how a strike might affect her job.

“We all don’t know 100 per cent what is going to happen so we can’t really do anything and our hands are tied. I pray that the school board says, ‘We’re going to stay open, it’s business as usual,’” she said.

Members of the Nova Scotia Teachers Union have voted in favour of job action. They could walk off the job on Dec. 3 if a deal isn’t reached before then.

Cameron isn’t sure what a strike would mean for her. On one hand, she could lose the 6½ hours of work she has a day, or possibly pick up more hours if the EXCEL program keeps running.

Her backup plan is to ramp up her in-home daycare service.

“I’ve done this for 11 years so I’m in a position where if the school doesn’t open there are going to be parents struggling at the last minute to find child care and I will be able to provide that in my home,” she said.

But there’s another scenario that Campbell could face.

“Financially, if they don’t keep the school open and parents make other arrangements, I’ve got a mortgage to pay every two weeks and it will financially devastate me. It’s hard enough as it is. We don’t get strike pay, we aren’t in a union, and so we are at the very bottom of the totem pole. It’s just such a non-guaranteed business,” she said.

The school board is working on a plan, says Kelly Connors, a spokeswoman for the board.

“We are currently developing contingency plans for all aspects of our operations, including EXCEL. We hope to have more information the week of Nov. 21,” she said in an email.

Cameron will have to wait to see what happens.

“I hope teachers don’t go on strike, but I see what teachers are dealing with and what they’re fighting for so I’m on both sides of the fence,” she said.