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Roads blocked and day care disrupted as Quebec unions protest against Charest [CA-QC]

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Canadian Press
Publication Date: 
11 Dec 2003

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Roads were blocked, day-care service was disrupted and many hospital appointments were cancelled in Quebec on Thursday as the province's unions staged protests to denounce Premier Jean Charest's economic and social policies.

The so-called Day of Disruption also left thousands of Montreal commuters scrambling to get to work after some transit commission garages remained closed at rush hour.

More than one-half of public day-care centres in the province closed for the day to protest Charest's recent decision to increase the cost of day care to $7 a day from $5.

Access was also limited to the Port of Montreal as banner-waving protesters disrupted traffic.

The Centre hospitalier de l'Universite de Montreal cancelled 3,000 appointments, including many surgeries. Essential services were maintained in hospitals throughout the province.

In other regions of Quebec, picketers stopped traffic at ports in Quebec City and Trois-Rivieres and blocked two highways. Near Saguenay, tonnes of sand were dumped in the middle of the main road into the city.

Public Security Minister Jacques Chagnon said he was most concerned about the blocked highways. He called on people to remain calm after several incidents where frustrated drivers ran through picket lines.

The Confederation of National Trade Unions and other labour groups are upset with proposed changes to the Labour Code that will reduce restrictions on contracting out jobs in municipalities and the private sector.

Unions are also fighting plans to merge bargaining units and administration in the health sector. They worry about a review taking place of all public services and cuts that might be needed to maintain a balanced budget while cutting taxes.

The premier also urged the labour movement to do everything it can to ensure public services wouldn't be affected Thursday.

Claudette Carbonneau, president of the Confederation of National Trade Unions, said support from parents for Thursday's day-care action is a clear sign of the "frustration" in Quebec.

And Carbonneau said Charest has to change his behaviour with the union movement.

Protests have been almost a daily feature in Quebec since the fall session of the legislature began.

- reprinted from Canadian Press