CUPE has long been a leader in the fight for a national child care program. In spite of promises by many governments, Canada still does not have a national strategy. About 70 per cent of women with young children work outside the home. For many of these families, the lack of affordable, quality child care is a major source of stress that makes balancing work and family responsibilities difficult and sometimes impossible.

Data from Canadian collective agreements show that we still have a lot of work to do to meet the needs of working families. Surprisingly, the majority of major collective agreements covering more than 500 workers do not have child care provisions. In 1998, 94.2 per cent of workers covered by a major agreement had no child care language. In fact, only about ten per cent of Canadian children, 12 and under, have access to regulated child care.

Why is bargaining child care important? Why should your CUPE local include child care on its bargaining agenda? The reasons are compelling:

  • Bargaining child care is about advancing women’s equality. It allows working mothers to enter the workforce. It also provides working mothers the freedom to remain in the workforce once hired.
  • Bargaining child care is about reducing poverty. It allows single mothers to work and provide for themselves and their children.
  • Bargaining child care is about helping to balance work and family obligations. Working women, more than men, assume responsibilities for child care, elder care and many domestic tasks such as cleaning, laundry and preparing meals. Access to affordable, quality child care helps working mothers balance these competing work and family obligations.
  • Bargaining child care is about providing the very best for our children. Research shows that regulated, quality child care programs promote healthy childhood development, including intellectual development.

Your local’s bargaining team will have to carefully consider your members’ child care needs before deciding on a course of action. You might want to negotiate onsite child care facilities, child care subsidies, or financial assistance to parents. Joint committees to analyze needs and discuss potential solutions can also be negotiated. Locals can bargain employer funds to assist families that have children with disabilities. Expenses for members who must work outside of normal working hours can be negotiated as well.

Bargaining child care benefits working mothers, children, entire families, our union and our workplaces. It allows working mothers the freedom to contribute to the workforce, society, and the ability to provide for themselves and their families. Bargaining child care makes good sense. Make it a part of your local’s bargaining agenda.