More hot weather is on the way, and people in Longueuil may soon be without their public pools. Over 250 lifeguards working for the city have announced they’re going on strike starting Monday.
“It’s undefined how long it will go,” said lifeguard union spokesman Joel Gagnon, a lifeguard himself. “It could be some days, it could go the rest of the season. It depends on the employer.”
Parents at Jubilee Pool in Greenfield Park were upset about the impasse. Twenty-five pools and 21 wading pools will shut down if an agreement cannot be reached.
“As a parent, I’m a little disappointed at the town,” said Sheila Verreault as she watched her son swim.
“I’m a little disappointed,” agreed Geneviève Ducharme. “My son comes here every day. We live close by, so he comes on his own almost every day.”
The lifeguards have been without a contract for two years. They say they’re fighting for better working conditions.
“It’s not about salary. The salary is fine,” said Gagnon.
The lifeguards want more money to buy their uniforms, saying the $90 they get is not enough to cover the cost of their bathing suits and t-shirts. They want better control over their schedules, and to be paid for training and swimming lesson prep.
“We’re no happy to go on strike. It’s not fun for us. We tried everything. We pressured our employer in all the other ways,” Gagnon said.
If there’s no breakthrough in negotiations, water activities that 700 people have already paid for will be cancelled. Kids halfway through their session will have to repeat the swimming lessons later, including Verreault’s daughter.
“She’s going to have to re-pass her Junior 6,” she said.
“We will refund citizens who won’t have access to their swimming classes and other activities,” said Louis-Pascal Cyr, a spokesperson for Longueuil.
The city is still hoping to strike a deal.
“We just regret that, right now, the union has decided to take the people hostage and maybe make it so the pools are not accessible, starting next Monday,” he said.
The two sides are set to sit down at the negotiating table Friday morning.
In the event of a strike, splash pads will still be open.