CPE: Quebec tables its offers; negotiations begin

By Lia Lévesque, The Canadian Press

More than 13 months after collective agreements expired, Quebec is finally presenting its offers to the unions representing thousands of daycare workers in the province’s Centres de la petite enfance (CPEs).

The office of Treasury Board president, Sonia LeBel, confirmed this on Tuesday, but would not comment further for the moment.

The tabling of Quebec’s offers allows negotiations to begin for the renewal of 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 FSSS, affiliated to the CSN, and the FIPEQ, affiliated to the CSQ, 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 have been saying they were ready to start negotiations for several months. In February, however, Minister LeBel stated that she would wait until the three central labour bodies had tabled their demands before tabling her offers.

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

CSN and CSQ disappointed

“We can’t say that this is a good starting point, really,” summed up Stéphanie Vachon, representative of the CPE sector at the FSSS, interviewed a few hours after receiving the government’s offers.

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

“This is not the way to attract new staff and keep existing staff,” says Valérie Grenon, president of the FIPEQ. She said she was “not surprised, but disappointed” by these offers.

The union demands include pay raises, support for children with special needs, and leave.

Quebec, for its part, is facing a shortage of childcare workers and a high demand for places in public daycares. It’s looking to “optimize” the staff already in place in CPEs.

“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,” Vachon said.

Grenon doesn’t see in these offers any “enhancement of the status of daycare workers in the network,” when they 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 strike action. Vachon mentions wearing t-shirts as the next step. For the moment, the priority is to start these negotiations at the end of May, she explained.

The FIPEQ is currently consulting its members on a pressure tactics mandate that could go as far as a “progressive strike”, meaning in stages.

–This report by La Presse Canadienne was translated by CityNews

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