Some of Edmonton's Catholic schools are bringing in temporary staff to replace more than 900 secretaries, librarians and assistants who walked off the job Monday.
"We really need to keep schools open, keep schools running as smoothly as possible," said Lori Nagy, a spokeswoman for the Edmonton Catholic School Board.
"Is it the same without the workers? Of course not. … But we really need to start thinking about the longer term."
Workers are upset about wages, job security and full-time positions being reduced to part-time.
Nagy said the decision on whether to bring in replacement workers is being left to the individual schools.
"It really is on a site-by-site basis. ... In fact, the principal needs to do whatever they need to do to keep the school running as smoothly as possible."
She said many parents have come in to volunteer at the schools during the strike.
Union leaders say the use of replacement workers will only serve to drag the strike on for longer.
Danny Burrell, a spokesman with the Communication, Energy and Paperworkers Union, said it's "disappointing" that some members of the union have crossed the picket line.
"I hope they look out here, see the solidarity here. We're giving everyone a chance to reverse and rejoin us out here," he said.
Burrell said he understands the desire for parents to step in and volunteer to help the schools, but says it complicates negotiations and prevents a swift end to the strike.
"We didn't get into this profession to be rich. … we want to get back. We miss our students."
Both the school board and the union have expressed the need for a quick end to the walk-out, saying the longer the strike goes on, the more likely it is to damage working relationships.
"It's very tough for a lot of the workers …. these workers are our family,” said Nagy.
She said one of the sticking points is the union's request for a guaranteed wage increase in the second year of the deal — a promise she said is difficult when the school board doesn't know its funding ahead of time.
The two sides met Thursday to discuss a new proposal, which included wage increases and discussions about workload.
Burell said he's hopeful that a deal can be worked out soon.
"We're hoping we can have a swift, just and fair resolution to this," he said.