MONTREAL — Eleven thousand workers at 7,000 child care centers (CPEs) across Quebec carried out the first of 10 one-day strikes Sept. 24. They are demanding the Quebec government agree to a 20% wage increase over four years to bring them to the same pay level as other government education workers. Government negotiators have offered only 12%.
The workers, the vast majority women, are members of the Confederation of National Trade Unions (CSN) and have been working without a contract for 18 months.
Chanting “So, so, so, solidarity!” over 1,000 strikers gathered in Saint-Louis Square here in the pouring rain, following early morning picket duty at child care centers across the city. Then they marched to the downtown offices of the Quebec Ministry of the Family.
“We appreciate your solidarity,” striker Kahdja Taoui told Philippe Tessier, Communist League candidate for mayor of the Montreal borough of Ville Saint-Laurent, who joined the rally along with this Militant worker-correspondent. “The CPEs are short-staffed because the wages aren’t high enough and people keep leaving for other jobs,” she said. “Because of that the children can’t get the care they need.”
The workers are demanding higher staff-to-child ratios for safety, to assure that children with special needs are properly cared for, and to have more time for preparation of the day’s activities and to put meals together.
The series of strikes was adopted by a vote of over 97% in union meetings across the province. “Out of respect for the parents, who support us in large numbers, we are committed to informing them in advance so they can make the adjustments they need,” CSN representative Stephanie Vachon told the media.
Several days earlier, 13,000 additional child care workers, organized by the Confederation of Quebec Unions (CSQ), voted by 95% to hold six days of strikes. They also have been without a contract for 18 months, with similar demands to those of the CSN-organized workers.