Kids left high and dry as Mount Pearl strike cancels swim club and lessons

·3 min read
The Summit Centre in Mount Pearl is closed as a labour dispute between the city and its unionized workers continues.  (Paul Daly/CBC - image credit)
The Summit Centre in Mount Pearl is closed as a labour dispute between the city and its unionized workers continues. (Paul Daly/CBC - image credit)
Paul Daly/CBC
Paul Daly/CBC

Over a hundred kids have been pulled from a summer camp in Mount Pearl because of the ongoing labour dispute between the city and its unionized employees represented by CUPE local 2099.

The Summit Centre, owned and operated by the city, is closed because of the strike, meaning swimming lessons and the Marlins Swim Club are facing disruptions in their programming.

Club coach Duffy Earle told CBC News on Tuesday about 60 per cent of kids signed up for the summer camp this year have been pulled out by parents because of the Summit Centre and the pool's closures.

That's about 120 participants no longer enrolled.

"Most parents understand there's a strike and it's outside of our control. However, people are stressed, people are definitely concerned about their kids missing out on the activities, missing out on the structure," Earle said.

"It feels a little bit like a continuation of COVID to those families not able to do their regular programs."

Earle said the summer camp has had to react "on the fly," securing a church basement to act as a temporary home base and spending time at Octagon Pond in nearby Paradise for swimming.

What's more, the staff hired to help with the summer camp are impacted by the drop in enrolment caused by the strike as well. Earle said eight people were hired for the season but as of Tuesday there are only four working part-time.

Life skills on hold

Mount Pearl resident Katie Finney calls the whole situation frustrating.

Finney had her five-year-old daughter registered for swimming lessons. Classes were suspended after her first lesson.

"To me, swimming is a skill set that can save a child's life. It's an essential skill set," she said.

"She went and she was excited and ready to go and it was taken away from her."

Submitted by Katie Finney
Submitted by Katie Finney

Finney said she's supportive of the workers on strike but added she doesn't understand why children have to feel the brunt of a dispute between the city and its employees.

Her daughter is also registered in Mount Pearl youth soccer and, like swimming, after only one game the schedule was cancelled. The city's baseball program is also feeling the impact.

"I don't believe in dragging children into politics," Finney said.

Canada Games looming

Further to the Marlins Swim Club being without a home for the time being, Earle said her club's competitive swimmers are now treading water.

The 2022 Canada Summer Games in Niagara is only weeks away, set to kick off on Aug. 6, and Earle said her athletes can't train properly.

"We've been creative and found training solutions. We've been able to source a little bit of pool time in other places and use open-water swimming in ponds but we have kids that are a very high national level," she said.

"They're losing training time and it'll certainly affect their performances."

Mike Moore/CBC
Mike Moore/CBC

Earle said some kids have travelled to Halifax to train ahead of the games. Plans are in place for other athletes to train throughout St. John's.

She said the disruption is putting stress on families to make things work and it's also hurting her swim club where swimming lessons are generally the first step kids make before funnelling into competitive swimming.

"Our summer program is a big part of how we recruit swimmers and how we bring up their swimming skills," she said.

"It'll absolutely have an impact on our membership in the fall as well. Hopefully things are back to normal, somewhat, then."

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