MONTREAL -- One of the province's largest unions is warning the Quebec government it could be in for tough negotiations this year unless it agrees to pay raises for education and health care workers.

The Centrale des syndicats du Québec (CSQ), which represents 200,000 workers in Quebec, is demanding salary increases after years of budget restrictions under the previous government.

 The province ranks last in teachers' salaries. The CSQ said it wants its teachers to be paid at par with their counterparts in the rest of Canada.

Average high school teachers' salaries: 

  • Canada: $88,746
  • Ontario: $95,794
  • Quebec: $78,041

Last December, the CAQ tabled its offers for public sector workers: 7 per cent over the next five years.

"We're not even looking at the inflation," said CSQ vice-president Anne Dionne.

The danger, said Dionne, is that the current labour shortage in Quebec is putting a considerable strain on the education system: salaries are too low, and potential teachers are choosing other careers.

"There is a shortage, and the conditions are poor. Everything is poor, and that's all they're offering," she said.

Negotiations are just beginning; no pressure tactics are planned for now.

The CSQ is also trying to help home daycare workers, many of whom they say are working for less than minimum wage.

The lowest-paid workers earn only $12.40 an hour, while those operating in the public daycares earn an average of $21 an hour.

Pressure tactics will gradually mount in the coming weeks, including home daycares that will open 15 minutes later every Friday for eight weeks.