On the Picket Line

Quebec workers strike senior residences for $15 minimum pay

By Joe Young
August 5, 2019

MONTREAL — Some 950 workers in 10 private senior residences went on strike here, in Quebec City and six other towns in Quebec. The walkout, a weeklong in most places, continued through July 20. “Our main demand is for a $15-an-hour minimum wage,” Meki Mnasek, a representative of Quebec Service Employees Union Local 298, told the Militant on the picket line at the Elogia retirement home July 15. 

The average pay now is 13.50 Canadian dollars an hour ($10.30). They are demanding CA$1 more in each of a three-year contract. The workers include orderlies, kitchen workers, housekeepers, maintenance workers and auxiliary nurses. 

“It is impossible to live with the low wages,” Mnasek said. “Many of the workers are single mothers.” Workers are overworked because the residences are understaffed. And this has a serious impact on the seniors who live there, he said. 

Many workers driving by honk as they pass the animated picket line where strikers chant and ring bells. Some of the seniors in the residence are wearing union T-shirts and have brought pizzas to picketers, Mnasek said. 

The workers had walked out for three days in May and are planning further strike action if they don’t get their demands. 

This correspondent told the strikers that I work at Walmart, where many workers also earn less than CA$15 an hour. I told them I’d get the word out about their fight to my co-workers.