Workers at 60 Montreal, Laval daycares vote for unlimited strike mandate

Unionized workers at 57 early childhood education centres (CPEs) in Montreal and Laval have given their union a mandate to call an unlimited strike.

Workers were on a 1-day strike Thursday, for the third time in the last month

Daycare workers have been without a collective agreement since March 2015. (CBC)

Unionized workers at 57 early childhood education centres (CPEs) in Montreal and Laval have given their union a mandate to call an unlimited strike.

The daycare centres were closed today as some 1,350 workers, members of the Syndicat des travailleuses des CPE de Montréal et Laval–CSN, held a general assembly, voting 91 per cent in favour of a strike.

Parents were left scrambling to find care for about 3,000 preschoolers in the greater Montreal region.

It's the third day in a month — and the fourth time since the union began pressure tactics last Oct. 30 — that the affected daycares have been closed due to the labour dispute.

In a news release on the union's website, negotiator Nathalie Fontaine said the strike mandate is the only way to get the attention and respect of management's negotiating team.

The union says there have been 30 days of bargaining since last October, but management is still seeking major rollbacks in working conditions, scheduling, the callback list and seniority.

"These are of real importance to our workers," Fontaine said. "What's at stake is how they carry out their day-to-day lives."

'Our back is to the wall'

Tania Valdez, the union's treasurer, told CBC that management wants the flexibility to send workers home if fewer children than expected show up at a daycare on any given day.

She said the workers need stable hours.

"We're around 97 per cent women, and some of us are single moms, so — the only source of income coming into the family. If you can't have an amount guaranteed, how can you live?"

Valdez said the workers don't want to inconvenience parents, but they feel they have no choice.

"We're really sorry. It's not what we want, but our back is to the wall, and the ultimate pressure tactic we have is a strike," she said.

Workers have been without a collective agreement since March 31, 2015.

After a provincewide walkout of workers at some 400 CPEs last Oct. 30, the federation representing some 11,000 workers reached a deal with the Family Ministry at the central bargaining table in early November.

However, the Association patronale nationale des CPE, which represents managers of the Montreal and Laval non-profit daycare sector, was not part of the central bargaining process.

With files from CBC's Steve Rukavina