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Quebec makes its offers to daycare unions as negotiations begin

A daycare centre in Langley, British Columbia, photographed on May 29, 2018. Quebec tabled its offers on Tuesday to the main union groupings representing workers in the Centres de la petite enfance. LA PRESSE CANADIENNE/Darryl Dyck
A daycare centre in Langley, British Columbia, photographed on May 29, 2018. Quebec tabled its offers on Tuesday to the main union groupings representing workers in the Centres de la petite enfance. LA PRESSE CANADIENNE/Darryl Dyck
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More than 13 months after the collective agreements expired, Quebec finally tabled its offers to all the unions representing thousands of daycare workers, the office of Treasury Board President Sonia LeBel confirmed on Tuesday.

Her office would not comment further.

The submission of Quebec's offers opens the way for negotiations to renew the collective agreements, which expired on March 31, 2023, at the same time as those in the public sector.

The two main groupings of these unions, the CSN-affiliated FSSS and the CSQ-affiliated FIPEQ, will receive these offers on Tuesday, and the FTQ on Wednesday.

The FIPEQ had tabled its demands in September 2023; the FSSS did so last week.

The two union federations claim to have been ready to begin negotiations for several months but in February, Minister LeBel said she would wait until all three central labour bodies had tabled their demands before tabling her offers.

Now that these steps have been taken, real negotiations can begin, more than 13 months after the collective agreements expired.

CSN and CSQ disappointed

“We can't say it's a good starting point, in fact,” said Stéphanie Vachon, representative of the Centres de la petite enfance (CPE) sector at the FSSS, during an interview a few hours after receiving the government offers.

Quebec is offering 12.7 per cent increases over five years, the same offer it made to the common front of public sector unions on Dec. 6, 2023, before settling for 17.4 per cent.

“That's not the way to attract new employees and keep existing ones,” said Valérie Grenon, president of FIPEQ. She says she is “not surprised, but disappointed” by these offers.

The union's demands relate to wage increases, support for children with special needs and leave. Quebec, for its part, is faced with a shortage of educators and significant demand for places in daycare centres and looking to “optimize” the staff already in place in the daycares.

“For us, it won't work. We won't be able to find a way to solve the staff shortage problem that way. It's going to take a lot more,” said Vachon.

Grenon doesn't see in these offers any “enhancement of the value of caregivers in the network” when on the contrary we need to retain those who are there and attract others.

Negotiations are likely to be lengthy, according to the two union leaders. The FSSS already has a pressure tactics mandate, but this excludes strikes.

Vachon mentions wearing t-shirts as the next step. For the moment, the priority is to start negotiations at the end of May, she says. FIPEQ is currently consulting its members on a pressure tactics mandate that could go as far as a “progressive strike” in stages.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on May 14, 2023.  

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