Workers on strike in 32 seniors’ residences in Quebec

Mainly looking for $15-per-hour wage: Union

Nearly 3,000 workers in 32 private residences have been on an unlimited strike since midnight last night. Their main demand: A minimum of $15 an hour, according to the Syndicat québécois des employées et employés de service (FTQ).

"Employers can't possibly be surprised at our salary demands. They've known about them for more than a year now. But many of them are still making ridiculous offers. Here at Résidence les Floralies de LaSalle, beneficiary attendants earn $12.55 at hiring and $13.28 at the top of the salary scale after four years. What we're being offered is $13.29 at hiring and $14.05 at the top of the scale in the third year of the collective agreement. Other employers are offering a 0 per cent wage increase when employees are already earning little more than the minimum wage," says Richard Belhumeur, president of the Syndicat, local 298 (SQEES).

Some 80 per cent of the striking workers are women, said Daniel Boyer, president of the Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec (FTQ).

"They are the ones who take care of the people who helped build Quebec. They are the ones who feed them. They are the ones who make sure they are safe and living in a clean environment. They deserve to be treated with as much dignity as they afford their residents. And that includes a decent salary that enables them to pay the rent, buy groceries, purchase clothing for their children, pay their bills, and have a little left over at the end of the month. If $15 an hour is too much, then these women are destined to remain in a precarious situation."

Since the strike days on May 11, 30 and 31, agreements in principle have been reached with several employers, with the $15 wage, including: Résidence Aviva (Quebec City), Manoir Outremont, L'Image d'Outremont, Domaine des Forges I (Laval), Domaine des Forges II (Laval), Manoir le Sapinois (Pincourt), Résidence l'Étincelle (Sainte-Thérèse), Résidence du Marché (Sainte-Thérèse), Résidence du Bonheur (Laval) and, yesterday, Résidence Alto (Ville Saint-Laurent).

"If independent residences and some members of the larger groups can afford salaries of $15 an hour, we believe that all employers in the sector, in particular the larger ones such as Chartwell Group, can. The consensus is clear, not only among SQEES-FTQ members but among the public in general: We need to pay workers in seniors' residences more," said Belhumeur.

The SQEES-FTQ represents 25 000 members throughout Quebec, most of them in the health and social services sector. It is affiliated with the Fédération des travailleurs et travailleuses du Québec, the largest union central in Quebec, with more than 600 000 members.

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