Quebec childcare workers walk out; government blinks


DAYCARE WORKERS IN QUEBEC ARE ON A ROLL. The government has offered to raise their pay—right in the middle of contract negotiations. But it hasn’t been enough to stop the workers from striking to win more.

The government made the higher pay offer in response to 10 days of rolling strikes across Quebec staged by three groupings of unionized daycare workers in early October.

Ten days of rolling strikes

The first to strike were the 3000 early childhood educators represented by the FIPEQ (Fédération des intervenantes en petite enfance du Québec), affiliated with the CSQ (Centrale des syndicats du Québec). The FIPEQ strike action on October 12 and 13
targeted around 600 Centres de la petite enfance.

Unionized childcare workers affiliated with the CSN (Confédération des syndicats nationaux) continued the strikes on October 14 and 15.

Childcare workers with the FTQ-affiliated Syndicat québécois des employées et employés de service will strike on October 18 and 19 in several regions of Quebec. Their mandate is for a 10-day strike.

Salaries are at the heart of the contract negotiations. At the moment, public sector daycare workers earn an entry level hourly wage of $19 that can increase to a maximum of $25.18 after 10 years.

Government offers to pay now

The recent government offer will immediately pay out a 12-per-cent salary increase over three years to qualified educators—a proposal it made in negotiations with the unions in July.

The salary increase can reach up to 17 per cent through a lump-sum payment for qualified workers willing to increase their work week to 40 hours. The current work week varies from 32 to 36 hours.

The union is asking for a pay bump of 21 to 27 per cent. FIPEQ-CSQ president Valérie Grenon says the increase is needed to maintain a minimum level of staffing.

Grenon says the system is currently short about 3,000 educators. In five years time, she says that number could reach 13,000.

The union is also fighting mandatory overtime, stating the government is seeking to impose the same system on educators that nurses have been denouncing for years in the health care system.

“This is their solution to solve the labour shortage, they tell us,” says Grenon.

Treasury Board President Sonia LeBel insisted that despite the recent offer, the negotiation process was ongoing with government-run childcare centres and subsidized private daycares.

Negotiating from strength

Grenon says that, despite several days of negotiations over the past few weeks, nothing has changed.

“We are still on the July offers. For us, this is unacceptable. We didn’t accept it in July, we won’t accept it today,” she said.

The timing of the strikes was intended to put pressure on the government ahead of the negotiations meeting scheduled for October 21.

Grenon said the strikes and demonstrations were a way to show solidarity with their negotiating committee.

“There are only four of them at the table with the Family Ministry and the Treasury Board, but we want to show them that there are 3,000 of us in the street to make things happen and that we deserve better,” said Grenon.

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