115,000 teachers and other civil servants strike in Montreal, Laval
Published Thursday, October 29, 2015 6:56AM EDT
Last Updated Thursday, October 29, 2015 6:57PM EDT
Students from seven school boards were not in classes Thursday as it was the turn of teachers and support staff in Montreal and Laval to strike.
It's the fourth in a serious of rotating regional strikes across Quebec being held by teachers and other public servants as they protest the lack of protest in contract negotiations.
The strike affects elementary and high schools in every school board on the island, as well as CEGEPs.
"I'm an art teacher, and they will say no maximum size in my class. I could have a class of 45. I already have classes of 35 so it's going to be even harder," said teacher Heidi Yetman.
Most provincial government offices were also closed Thursday.
Employees at CLSCs and hospitals are also on strike, but since those functions are considered an essential service people will still be able to receive medical treatment; those whose cases are not urgent will face delays.
Throughout the day union leaders moved from protest to protest to support the 115,000 workers striking.
Frustration over Bombardier
Some union workers were disappointed to hear on Thursday that the province was spending $1 billion to prop up Bombardier.
"A billion! A billion! A billion dollars! Like really, we can't have a part of that to help our education system? It's unnerving," said teacher Jessie Matiaszuk.
Other teachers and unionized workers said they understood the investment given the size of Bombardier and its impact on the provincial economy.
Political analyst Jean Lapierre said striking public sector workers are facing three parties in the National Assembly that are not discussing their issues.
"It would be difficult for the PQ, with Pierre Karl Peladeau as their leader, to come out in support of the unions," said Lapierre, referencing Peladeau's history of locking out unions many times as the head of Quebecor.
"The CAQ has been for cuts all along," added Lapierre.
Ultimately, Lapierre expects the provincial government will end up legislating an end to the strike.
Employees are united in their demand for a 13.5 per cent pay hike over three years. The provincial government is offering three percent over five years.
Negotiations continue Friday, and the next days scheduled for public sector workers to go on strike are Nov. 16 and 17.
"We're hoping the government comes to its senses before that, and maybe find a few more billion that they can give to public education," said John Donnelly, president of the Pearson Teachers Union.