Did you “honk” in support of the striking daycare educators as they were out protesting last Thursday and Friday across the Valley? Regardless of whether or not we have young children attending a public CPE, striking daycare workers deserve our support and our respect. As one of the first groups of essential workers called upon to step up and remain present during the initial stages of the pandemic, daycare workers were among the least talked-about groups. Certainly, when it comes to renegotiating a collective agreement with the government, they have been last in line. Now, after 18 months without a contract, and little movement at the negotiating table, workers have voted overwhelmingly in favour of a strike mandate – and are making good on their promise to walk off the job until they are shown the recognition they warrant.
In what is being touted as a show of good faith, Family Minister Mathieu Lacombe and Treasury Board President Sonia LeBel held a joint press conference on October 14 to announce they would be offering an immediate salary increase to striking workers. The offer amounts to a 12 per cent increase over three years for qualified workers, while non-qualified workers would earn less, at around nine per cent. LeBel suggested this was a temporary measure, until a contract is negotiated that recognizes how low salaries are affecting recruitment and employee retention within the system; LeBel also noted she is aware that work conditions are just as important.
Such words ring hollow when you consider the government’s move to hold a press conference during a strike period to announce a non-negotiated pay increase. It’s almost akin to hoping the workers would fold up their signs and go back to work contentedly while negotiations continue to stall.
One would think we would have learned from the desperate attempts to pull nurses and orderlies back into the health care system with promises of increased salaries, that working conditions and quality of life must be factored into government math. In the meantime, the daycare workers made it clear that they are digging in, by striking the day after the salary increase was announced.
Daycare educators deserve our respect and full support; but, perhaps even more, they deserve to be recognized as professionals who are helping us to educate and shape the youngest members of our society. And right now, they are proving to be very good role models as well.