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Quebec teachers call on government to address shortages, salaries, working conditions

Quebec teachers and their union leaders are calling on the government to address concerns about serious staff shortages and working conditions.

Members of the Centrale des syndicats du Québec (CSQ) union demonstrated outside the national assembly in Quebec City Monday morning to make their demands known ahead of contract negotiations with the government.

The CSQ, which represents teachers, professionals and support staff, tabled their common demands last Friday, notably on salaries and retirement.

They are calling on Premier Francois Legault and new education minister, Bernard Drainville, to listen closely to teachers on the ground and to hear what the real challenges are. They say there are many that affect their daily work.

Many teachers said there are hundreds of vacant positions in schools.

The CSQ reports their union alone is short by 500 teachers – but there are also critical shortages of school psychologists and speech therapists, for example.

Teachers say they're overloaded with tasks and are lacking support. They are demanding the government do whatever it takes to attract a new generation to the profession and to retain those who are there now.

They  are calling for the composition of classes to be changed, and the size of classes to be reduced.

The integration of students with adjustment or learning difficulties into the regular classroom complicates the task of teachers, who say they do not always get the resources required to help them.

There was also a call for more services to help with francisation in schools, including more so-called 'welcome classes' for immigrants to help ease their integration.

And then there is the matter of salaries.

"When Mr. Legault says publicly that teachers got a 15 per cent raise, that is false. Only those who are starting in the profession got a 15 per cent increase. And why? Because it was the lowest in Canada," said Heidi Yetmen of the Quebec Provincial Association of Teachers. "So now we are about even when you start your profession. So most of our teachers did not get 15 per cent and that has to be improved."

Teachers say they hope Drainville will listen to their concerns carefully when discussions get underway.

Drainville has said in recent interview that he has "extended his hand."

With files from The Canadian Press. Top Stories

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