MONTREAL — Some 375 workers at four private seniors’ residences in Quebec began a five-day strike for higher wages here Nov. 26. The orderlies, kitchen, janitorial, laundry and maintenance workers — members of the Quebec Union of Service Employees (SQEES) in Montreal, Quebec City and Saint-Jean-Sur Richelieu — are demanding a minimum wage of 15 Canadian dollars an hour ($11.30) and a CA$1 pay increase each year in a three-year contract.
“Workers here now start at the minimum wage of $12.50 an hour. Every time we negotiate, the Residence Anjou always gives the same excuse — they don’t have the money. But now is the time for a minimum starting wage of $15 per hour,” Garcia-Gregory Saint-Fleur, a union representative for SQEES Local 298, told the Militant on the picket line.
Marie-France Lemay, vice president of operational services at Chartwell, one of the companies affected, insulted the strikers, saying the company is offering “compensation that is equitable, competitive and reflects the competencies of our employees.” “That’s disgusting to say that,” SQEES President Sylvie Nelson replied angrily in front of one of the residences in Quebec City. “It makes no sense to not be able to pay people $15 an hour to take care of seniors who have worked their whole lives.”
In Quebec City, residents at the Bordeaux Apartments organized a petition supporting the union’s demands and recognizing the work done by the strikers. Delegates from the Quebec Federation of Labor (FTQ) convention meeting in Quebec City, including FTQ President Daniel Boyer, joined the picket line there on the first day of the strike.
“Solidarity is very important,” striker Isabelle Martel told this Militant worker-correspondent on the picket line.