The streets of downtown Montreal were clogged with demonstrators Wednesday afternoon, as Quebec public sector workers staged another one-day walkout to protest against lagging contract talks with the provincial government.
The strike action involved tens of thousands of government employees, including teachers, white-collar workers and caretakers.
Steady stream of MORE protesters for about 35 minutes arrives at Victoria Sq. demo. pic.twitter.com/5NDYcMtrZo— @eliabb
Demonstrators arrived downtown in Square Victoria by the busload.
Jacques Létourneau, president of the CSN labour federation, called it the largest public strike day since 1972 – with more than 400,000 workers taking part.
Streets began to clear out at around 3:30 p.m. ET.
Parents of school-aged children had to make alternate arrangements for their care with both schools and in-school daycare services shut down across the province.
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A few thousand gathered for Common Front Union demo. Thousands more expected after noon. pic.twitter.com/s2O1svlWEF— @eliabb
The strike was province-wide, and in the community of Quaqtaq, in Quebec's Inuit territory of Nunavik, teachers picketed outside in the minus 15 C weather.
Quaqtaq Mayor Robert Deer urged the government to settle the dispute, writing in a Facebook post: "Our youth are the ones who are deprived of their future."
Progress in negotiations: Coiteux
Treasury Board President Martin Coiteux questioned the pertinence of today's strike, noting that much progress has been made at the bargaining table. Coiteux said more than 30 settlements had been reached with unions in various sectors on non-salary issues.
"I think that this strike in particular – which causes problems to the parents in Quebec, to the children in Quebec who cannot go to their schools – was not necessary," Coiteux said. "What we have to do is to work together and find a solution...as we did in several sectors."
Ongoing pressure tactics
Public sector workers have been without a collective agreement since April.
"We do what we have to do," said Brigitte Chartrand, a CSN union representative, who was protesting outside of Ste-Justine Hospital Wednesday morning. "It's a long process but we have hope."
For many unions, this is their fourth strike day. Earlier this fall, members voted in favour of using six rotating strike days as a pressure tactic to show their dissatisfaction with the state of negotiations.
Lots of dancing at Common Front union demo. Square Victoria Montreal https://t.co/iJfyRTJogC— @eliabb
Here is a list of affected services and institutions in the greater Montreal region:
- Commission scolaire de Montréal: all schools, centres, daycare services closed.
- Commission scolaire Marguerite-Bourgeoys: all schools, centres, daycare services closed.
- English Montreal School Board: all schools, centres, daycare services closed.
- Lester B. Pearson School Board: all schools, centres, daycare services closed.
- New Frontiers School Board: all schools, centres, daycare services closed.
- Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board: all schools, centres, daycare services closed.
- CEGEPS including Dawson, Champlain, John Abbott, Vanier colleges.
General city services:
Many municipal offices will be closed between 1 p.m. and 6 p.m. For example, in the City of Montreal, this includes:
- Municipal libraries.
- Accès Montréal offices.
- Permit offices.
- The Info-Travaux phone line.
- Claims offices.
- Municipal court, except essential services.
Open but services reduced
Some municipal attractions will remain open, but services will be reduced. These include:
- Espace pour la vie (Biodome, Botanical Garden, Insectarium, Planetarium).
- Claude-Robillard sports centre: no free swim time available today.
- Nature parks.
Facilities that are managed by the boroughs will be closed, including:
- Community centres.
- Sports centres.
For more information on what's open and closed it your neighbourhood, city officials advise citizens to check with their borough.
The main office of the city of Montreal's municipal court, located at 775 Gosford Street, will remain open to offer essential services.
All other service points on the island of Montreal will close at 12:30 p.m. Phone lines will be closed as of 12:45 p.m..
All hearings scheduled in the morning will take place, but afternoon hearings will be postponed to a later date.
311 phone line
The city's 311 phone line for citizens will be operating from 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. only for urgent matters related to public works.