Quebec home daycare worker strike hits parents of 90,000 children

Hundreds of home daycare workers honked horns, blew whistles and pounded drums as they marched to Premier Philippe Couillard's downtown Montreal office today during their one-day strike.

14,000 home daycare workers across province hold 1-day strike to pressure government on wages, hours

Daycare workers demonstrate in downtown Montreal as part of a one-day strike against stalled negotiations with the government over wage increases. (Jay Turnbull/CBC)

Hundreds of home daycare workers honked horns, blew whistles and pounded drums as they marched to Premier Philippe Couillard's downtown Montreal office today as part of their one-day strike.

Nearly 14,000 home daycare workers across the province shut down their services Monday, forcing the parents of 90,000 children to make alternate child-care arrangements.

Home daycare workers, members of the Centrale des syndicats du Québec, are demanding that provincial Families Minister Francine Charbonneau recognize the real number of hours they work.

Currently, home daycare workers are paid about $12 an hour during a 35-hour week.

However, they argue they actually work closer to 50 hours a week after taking into consideration peripheral tasks like grocery shopping and cleaning.  

Cynthia Buckley, a home daycare worker in Île-Perrot, Que., says she works about 15 extra, unpaid hours a week. She participated in last week's rotating strikes and is also striking Monday. (Elias Abboud/CBC)

Cynthia Buckley, a home daycare worker and union affiliate secretary for the Suroît region southwest of Montreal, said the parents who use her daycare were surprised by her wages.

“They want us to be paid appropriately. When they found out we were only paid 35 hours a week, they were blown off their chairs, many of them. They said, ‘Oh my God, that’s ridiculous,’” Buckley said.

The 14,000 home daycare workers on strike Monday are asking for a wage increase to bring them to $15 an hour, which is more in line with what other daycare workers in the province earn.

Equal compensation

Kathleen Courville, president of the daycare workers' union-federation (Fédération des intervenants en petite enfance du Québec), said the government compares their salaries to the earnings of untrained daycare workers in the public daycare system.

Untrained public daycare workers currently start at $15.09 an hour, while their trained counterparts' wages start at $17.08 an hour.

However, Courville argued, daycare workers in the public CPE system actually work 35 hours a week.

Courville said raising the hourly wage to $15 would help compensate home daycare workers for the 15 hours more they say they work a week. 

Home daycare workers have been in negotiations with the government for more than a year.

They have been holding rotating strikes in different parts of the province since last week.

According to the union, Charbonneau cancelled a day of negotiations set for Monday.

NDP wants national child-care policy

In recent weeks, NDP Leader Tom Mulcair has suggested his proposed daycare plan would be broadly based on the Quebec daycare model.

Currently, some Quebec parents who use the public daycare system pay a subsidized rate of $7.30 a day per child. 

The subsidized daycare program has been in existence since 1997 as a way to encourage women to rejoin the workforce after having children.

The NDP wants Canadian parents to pay no more than $15 a day for public daycare services.