MONTREAL -- A third union organization is planning an unlimited strike starting Thursday in Quebec public daycares.

The FTQ-affiliated Syndicat québécois des employés de service is now also planning an unlimited strike on Thursday, along with the CSQ-affiliated Fédération des intervenantes en petite enfance (FIPEQ), if no agreement is reached by then.

As of Thursday, the three union organizations that represent workers in the Early Childhood Centres (CPEs) would then be on unlimited strike, since members of the CSN-affiliated Fédération de la santé et des services sociaux (FSSS) have been on strike since last Wednesday.

‘HISTORIC’ OFFERS

In an interview on 98.5 FM, Treasury Board President Sonia LeBel said she found it "unbelievable" that the CSN-affiliated FSSS is continuing its indefinite strike after Quebec tabled its "historic offers."

The minister claims she offered an increase of 18-20 per cent over three years for educators and 11 per cent for support staff in CPEs.

She argues her offer means $30 per hour -- the maximum on the scale -- for educators.

UNIONS NOT ALL THE SAME

LeBel said she believes the CSQ and FTQ demands were more reasonable than those of the CSN, which are “through the roof.”

"Apart from the CSN, we are on the same dance floor with the others," she stated. "The CSN maintains its demand to have similar increases for support staff in the CPEs, which is not the case for the other two union organizations."

When contacted after LeBel's statements, the CSN denied having the same demands for support staff as for educators and denied that it is asking for 18 to 20 per cent increases over three years for them, but would not say exactly how much it is asking for.

NO SPECIAL LEGISLATION

LeBel again ruled out the idea of introducing special legislation to end the indefinite strike, calling it an "absolute last resort."

She said she still believes an agreement with the unions is possible, even after months of negotiation. In fact, as recently as Monday, the FIPEQ and the FSSS were at the negotiating table with government representatives. The SQEES will negotiate again on Wednesday.

"I can't believe we won't get there," she noted, dismissing the idea that Premier François Legault may meddle in the file, as requested Sunday by the opposition parties and the union group at a joint press conference.

LeBel claimed he is already aware of the issues because she regularly keeps him updated.

-- This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on Dec. 6, 2021.