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Back-to-school unease: Quebec teachers are stretched to the limit, unions say

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Unqualified teachers, missing support for students in need, and a lack of personnel in Quebec classrooms -- "what's happening in the network is not the fault of the unions," says CSQ union president Éric Gingras.

With the start of the new academic year just days away for Quebec's primary and secondary schools, the Centrale des syndicats du Québec is taking stock of the problems affecting the education network.

In its view, solutions lie in improving working conditions, which means negotiating collective agreements. Union leaders say negotiations are at a standstill, and they're desperate to avoid strike votes.

"It's not true that our goal is to go on strike," said Gringas.

And if there is a strike, "it will be the members who want it, not the unions," said Josée Scalabrini, president of the teacher's union branch (FSE-CSQ).

DIFFICULT START TO THE NEW SCHOOL YEAR

The back-to-school season has been a challenge, unions say.

Staff shortages affect not only teaching positions but also those of support staff and other school workers. Unions argue they often leave for the private sector, where the pay is better.

Jacques Landry, representing the union branch for education professionals (FPPE-CSQ) such as school psychologists and speech therapists, says he's "seeing more and more private companies everywhere."

"We have agencies offering their services to school service centres. We didn't see that before."

Teachers are also dealing with a lack of support staff for students who require extra attention.

"Lighten the load before we let go," pleaded Scalabrini, arguing that teachers are forced to spend too much time disciplining and dealing with "bureaucracy" rather than educating.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published in French on Aug. 21, 2023.  

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