By Michael Boriero
For a second consecutive day public daycare workers in Quebec were outside, signs and megaphones in hand, braving snow and freezing temperatures, and demanding the provincial government return to the negotiation table with a respectable contract offer.
Early childhood educators and support staff — administrative, kitchen and maintenance workers — in Quebec’s Centres de la petite enfance (CPE) network are also slated to be on strike Wednesday and Thursday. They hope to force the government to meet their demands.
According to Megan Stratton, an educator at the CPE Jardin de Fanfan in Magog, there was an offer presented last week, but the union rejected it because it only focused on the educators, leaving out the thousands of workers who keep CPEs running on a daily basis.
“It was refused because it was as if they weren’t recognizing the jobs of everybody that works in a daycare. It’s not just about money, it’s the fact that they’re asking us to do more tasks, more jobs, and taking away from our planning time,” said Stratton.
It was a strong offer for qualified educators, she explained, but support staff were only presented a two per cent raise increase, which felt like a slap in the face. Stratton said her staff is travelling to Montreal Wednesday to join their voice with other CPEs on strike.
She added that Thursday could be a pivotal moment in the negotiations, as the Eastern Townships CPE unions will gather at the Delta Hotel in Sherbrooke to vote on an unlimited strike mandate, which means public daycare centres could be closed indefinitely.
The last contract agreement signed by daycare workers left them without paid holidays, Stratton continued. And the government has since heaped more duties onto educators, including in-depth reports for every child, and two annual meetings with parents.
Stratton said that if CPE workers vote in favour of an unlimited strike, it will undoubtedly have an immediate impact on parents and children across the province. She has seen a lot of support from parents, but at the same time, many of them are reaching a breaking point.