Major Job Improvements Needed to Address Quebec’s Child-Care Worker Shortage: Steelworkers

MONTREAL – The United Steelworkers/Syndicat des Métallos union is calling for significant improvements to the Quebec government’s contract proposal in province-wide bargaining to address the critical shortage of child-care workers.

“The shortage of child-care workers is alarming. We need good-faith negotiations based on the recognition that wages and working conditions must be significantly improved if we want to attract people to this sector,” said Manon Leclerc, an early childhood educator in Rouyn-Noranda who represents the Steelworkers in negotiations with the government.

“It’s all well and good for the government to offer 2% or 3% per year, but that's not going to attract people to study early childhood education or to continue working in the system,” Leclerc said.

The Steelworkers’ union represents staff at the CPE Au jardin de Pierrot child-care centre in Rouyn-Noranda and the CPE Touchatouille centre in Port-Cartier. The collective agreements of all unionized employees in Quebec’s child-care system expired on April 1, 2020. Unions are planning to take collective action to pressure the government to negotiate fair agreements.

“We are denouncing the government’s offer and demanding wages and working conditions for child-care workers that fully recognize their importance and the urgent need to recruit and retain more staff in this critical sector,” said Dany Maltais, a Steelworkers union staff representative for the North Shore region.

“The labour shortage is a problem throughout Quebec, but it has become more acute in more remote regions,” said Sonia Charette, a Steelworkers staff representative in Rouyn-Noranda and a former child-care worker.

“In Rouyn-Noranda, we have educators this summer who have had to cancel their vacation because there is no one to replace them. We have two students in early childhood education who had to think twice before deciding to take summer jobs at our child-care centre, they coud have earned more money selling coffee,” Charette added.

“Child care is the lowest-paid profession of all the technical disciplines taught in our CEGEP college system. One in three educators is thinking of quitting and there is no one to replace them. So as long as we don't improve wages, we won't be able to recruit and retain educators. The government may say that it will create new spaces, but who will work there?”

The United Steelworkers/Syndicat des Métallos, affiliated with the Quebec Federation of Labour, is the largest private-sector union in Quebec, representing more than 60,000 workers in all economic sectors.

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