Employees at GoodLife Fitness Centres Inc. are expressing concern after the fitness chain decided to discontinue its childcare services at three clubs in the Greater Toronto Area.

Employees and gym club members have expressed disappointment by signing a petition initiated by parents and circulated by Workers United Canada, the union representing GoodLife fitness trainers in Toronto, Ajax and Peterborough, earlier this week.

While employees do have to pay for the drop-in service, they receive a discounted flat rate $5 per child and $2 per additional child. That compares to gym members who pay $7 per child and $4 per additional child.

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Not all employees use the childcare service, but it’s a very important benefit for those who do, such as fitness instructors, says Ryan Hayes, a communications and research representative at the union. He says available childcare is a “make-or-break” clause for those employees as they’re likely to only work for two to three hours a day or week.

In fact, some instructors have already said they plan to cancel their classes because of the discontinuation, says Hayes. “If they were to hire someone privately [for childcare], in most cases, that would be more expensive. The costs would be higher than what they’d actually be bringing home in wages. And so it creates a situation where some people are faced with the prospects of giving up their class because they will no longer have access to the child-minding service.”

Read: Is childcare an employer’s responsibility?

GoodLife won’t be eliminating the service completely, but it decided to close the three locations because of low usage, noted Tracy Matthews, executive director of member experience, in an email to Benefits Canada. 

“Members and associates at each closed location were given at least four weeks’ notice,” she added.

But the union is still concerned about the fate of the remaining childcare locations, says Hayes. He notes that Jane Riddell, the organization’s president and chief executive officer, initially sent an email to the petitioners saying the company was discontinuing the entire service but then sent another message three hours later to clarify that the cancellation was just for the three clubs.

“It was confusing,” says Hayes, noting in her initial email, Riddell had stated the childcare service didn’t align with the company’s core business. “We had the sense that perhaps what GoodLife was doing was sort of testing the water with these three initially to see what the response was like before deciding on the service as a whole.”

While a GoodLife public relations specialist confirmed the content of Riddell’s initial message and said the first assertion was an “unfortunate error” that the company later corrected, Matthews noted in her email to Benefits Canada that GoodLife closed 12 childcare facilities across Canada last year also because of low usage.

Read: My Take: Childcare support welcome, but what about elder care?

Hayes hopes the union’s petition will ensure the company doesn’t completely discontinue the childcare service and also prompt them to reconsider the recent closures. “I think the fact that GoodLife had this service in the first place had been a really good thing. It’s a progressive idea to be inclusive of young parents . . ..”

According to GoodLife’s website, it has 173 childcare locations across Canada, with the majority of them in Ontario.

*Editor’s note: Story updated to clarify that GoodLife members started the petition and Workers United Canada helped circulate it.

Copyright © 2017 Transcontinental Media G.P. Originally published on benefitscanada.com

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