The Gleaner

Relief for parents and workers as early childcare centres reopen

Valley parents were able to send their young children back to the La Vallée Colorée and Kaleidoscope early childcare centres (CPE) in Saint-Chrysostome and Hinchinbrooke on Monday, after a standoff between the Quebec government and striking daycare workers was resolved over the weekend.

Local daycare workers affiliated with the Syndicat des travailleuses et travailleurs en petite enfance de la Montérégie-CSN voted 90 per cent in favour of accepting an agreement in principle on Saturday. The decision to ratify the agreement came after months of stalled negotiations that resulted in 10 rolling strike days and a general walkout launched December 1.

“It was not an easy negotiation, but we managed to make several advances thanks to the solidarity and determination of our members,” says Stéphanie Vachon, a representative for the CSN affiliated workers. She notes that while negotiators were not able to secure all they had wanted during negotiations, the results are historic.

Educators will see an increase of up to 18 per cent, while support workers, including those in administration, maintenance, and kitchen staff, will see an increase of between 8 and 12.5 per cent. The government has also committed to working out issues that were not finalized with this agreement, including ratios and supports for children with special needs.

“It’s a huge relief,” says Christine Parent, who represents the Kaleidoscope CPE as a member of the labour relations committee. She says that while the fight was necessary, she and the rest of the team are very happy to be back at work.

Parent credits the support of parents and the community as crucial. “I don’t think we could have held on as long as we did without it,” she says, noting parents would honk as they drove by, while some sent personal messages or brought their kids to say hi to protesting workers. Local business owners were also supportive; in Huntingdon, Wayne McDowell, the owner of the Brasserie du Village, offered free soup to workers, while Marc Leduc provided a heated trailer. Jon Van Horne also allowed workers to protest on his property, which allowed for a visible, safe location for workers to stage their daily protests. Numerous parents kept them supplied with coffee and doughnuts on cold mornings.

Back to normal

Brigitte Curran, a representative for Kaleidoscope who works in the nursery, says the 18 strike days have interrupted the routine at the daycare, and she is especially looking forward to getting things back on track. She says it was a stressful time, with many worrying not only about the impact of the strike on families and children, but on their own financial situations as well.

Curran says that while she understands the outcome may not be as beneficial to all, she feels validated that the government has recognized the important role CPE workers play in early childhood development. Parent agrees, and admits she is glad the strike ended when it did. “It is a magical time of year, and we are happy to be going back to ‘our kids’ and our families when we will be able to throw some magic into the daycare routine.”

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