Many parents will have to make alternate arrangements for their children starting today as thousands of Quebec's public daycare workers walk off the job over the next week.
Around 600 Centres de la petite enfance — commonly referred to as CPEs — are staging rotating strikes across the province in an effort to pressure the Quebec government to improve their working conditions and speed up the negotiation of a new collective agreement.
Public daycares in the regions of Montreal, Laval, Lanaudière, Montérégie and the Eastern Townships will strike today and the Capitale-Nationale, Chaudière-Appalaches and Abitibi-Témiscamingue tomorrow. Other daycares province-wide will follow suit later this week.
Educators with the Fédération des intervenantes en petite en enfance du Québec (FIPEQ), affiliated with the Centrale des syndicats du Québec (CSQ) are kicking off the strike Tuesday and Wednesday.
FIPEQ-CSQ president Valérie Grenon says three major sticking points are currently blocking negotiations: educators want higher salaries, more resources for staff and better support for children with special needs.
The union is asking for a pay bump of 21 to 27 per cent, while the government is offering about half that. 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, according to estimates.
Despite several days of negotiations over the past few weeks, Grenon says 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.
In addition to increased salary and resources, the union is fighting to get rid of mandatory overtime. "This is their solution to solve the labour shortage, [the government] tells us," says Grenon.
Educators are planning to demonstrate in Montreal and Sherbrooke on Tuesday, and in Levis and Rouyn-Noranda on Wednesday.
Union members with the CSN-affiliated Fédération de la santé et des services sociaux have announced they will strike on Thursday and Friday.
Child-care workers with the FTQ-affiliated Syndicat québécois des employées et employés de service will strike on Oct. 18 and 19.