Dozens of parents in a sign of solidarity with the ongoing daycare strike, brought their children to the doorsteps of the Quebec family minister’s office Friday.
Young children dressed in snowsuits played in front of Mathieu Lacombe’s office building behind yellow caution tape.
The demonstration put on by a group of Montreal parents was meant to show support for public sector daycare unions in their ongoing contract negotiations with the Quebec government.
“If you’re not allowing us to go to school or work, well, you can take care of our kids,” parent-organizer Nadine Ouellet said.
“Please watch them. We would like to contribute, we would like to work and study all the while having children.”
Friday Marked the third consecutive day in the unlimited strike mandate put on by public sector daycare employees.
Thousands of workers in Quebec launched a strike on Wednesday, after contract talks with the government stalled over pay raises for support staff such as kitchen and maintenance employees.
The strike has closed about 400 government-subsidized daycare centres across the province.
Quebec’s largest daycare-workers union – the Confederation of National Trade Unions, or Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN) – says more people in the sector will quit and the province will face labour shortages if the government can’t significantly raise wages and improve working conditions.
This is a historic fight, said CSN union spokesperson Stephanie Vachon.
“Every week we’re going to ask the workers, ‘is it OK like that? Are you ready to stop? Do you want to go further?’ They are going to choose. It’s them, not us,” Vachon said.
About 10,000 daycare workers affiliated with the CSN are taking part in the unlimited strike, with the main sticking point being salaries for support staff.
Quebec’s new offer on the table, about 20 per cent over three years for educators, is equivalent to $30 an hour. Support staff — including maintenance and kitchen employees — were offered pay raises of up to 11 per cent over the same time period.
Treasury Board president Sonia LeBel said on Friday the unions are negotiating backwards.
An increase of 3 per cent since Wednesday Lebel said higher than what was offered to their peers in the public sector.
“Every time I move forward they take a step back, even two steps back,” LeBel said at a press conference.
The union disagrees.
“We think it’s not fair for all those people. They need a massive catch up with the public sector,” Vachon said.
There is a salary difference of $4 to $5 less than the public sector for the same job according to Vachon.
Adding pressure to the situation, both the the CSQ-affiliated Fédération des intervenantes en petite enfance (FIPEQ) and the The QFL-affiliated Syndicat québécois des employés de service (SQEES) have voted in favour of strike mandates, although no strike date has been given.
Despite this, LeBel says back-to-work legislation is not yet on the table.
“As of today my goal to reach a conclusion by signing an agreement is maintained,” LeBel said.
– with files from The Canadian Press